Finding ways to create a warm environment with the over use of plastic within our classes is a tricky job. As much as teachers want to update their space, I know over the years the biggest comment I have heard is that teachers already spend so much of their own money on their class. True! I have certainly spent money on the setup of my classes over the years, but it is also an investment that takes me well beyond a single teaching year. Some of these updates have been free. Let’s take a closer look…
Wood, such as these pen/pencil holders. After posting on a local ‘Mom Swap’ Facebook group, looking for someone who could make these, a fellow teacher said her father would. He donated them at no cost.
Material can really change a space, and be used in so many ways. Use them as a table cloth, costumes for free play, blankets for children, rugs on floor, or to make forts. The best part about material is that they can be found around your house/families houses/thrift shops/donated by student’s families. All you have to do is ask!
Baskets and bowls. This is one area that I like to make a small investment in. Wooden bowls and baskets have many uses and can often be picked up at thrift shops. They make provocations much more interesting and shelves more welcoming. Some of these baskets have been donated by families; otherwise garage sales and thrift shops. I like that they are all different, bringing in an eclectic vibe.
Centerpieces. Often, seasonal items from my home. Sometimes I ask families if they want to donate flowers (from their gardens), or I will stop on a drive and pick some from the side of the road. Get creative, the more obscure the item, the more interesting!
Sheer fabric to drape. I bought this material at ikea for $9.99 and have been using it for 5 years. Sheer fabric washes easily and can be used in a variety of ways. It plays a big role in creating warmth in the class when placed under lighting (it helps soften the aggressive florescent lights).
Glass. I love glass jars, transparency offers students a wide range of options with craft supplies and materials. Glass needs to be used safely, and children need to be taught how to appropriately take care of glass in the classroom. Supervision should be used with delicate items. If you are not comfortable with glass, or unable to find them at an inexpensive price, you can always use clear plastic containers such as the ones you buy salad in with the attached lid. These can have the same effect, and are able to be left out in the reach of students.
Twinkle Lights. From string lights, to tube lights, to twinkle lights… any soft lighting that you can add will help transform a classroom into a warm and comforting space. Nothing beats the lights on a tree during Christmas – it is the same with lights in a classroom. Often, twinkle lights and the natural window lighting is all that is needed on a sunny day, or a quiet morning. These can often be donations from families (I did purchase my string light and tube lights from a local thrift store for under $10.00).
Shelving covers. If you have closed shelving for storage, consider yourself lucky! If you are in my previous situation, you can inexpensively purchase paper accordion covers from your local hardware store. One package does more than one shelf if you cut it into a few pieces. You are looking at less than $10. I have also seen shelving covers made from left over material, so if you have some sheets laying around you could also make your own fabric covers.
Decor. Any ‘extra’ items; such as fairy gardens (a class inquiry), fish bowls, pillows, logs, fake grass (donated by a dear friend…how lucky am I). All of these items that are not being used around your house, or a family members, can become part of your class. You don’t want to fill your class with unnecessary items, so be picky, and decide based on your students likes.
There are many money conscious ways to update and warm up your classroom. Always ask for donations, and remember, social media is one easy way to see if anyone has extra unused items around their house that can be repurposed.