A Clever--and Perfectly Legal--Way To Get Low-Cost School Supplies

column | Maker and DIY Movement

A Clever--and Perfectly Legal--Way To Get Low-Cost School Supplies

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     May 22, 2013

A Clever--and Perfectly Legal--Way To Get Low-Cost School Supplies

This article is part of the guide: How to Build Your Makerspace.

This surely falls into the "teach someone to fish" category: Casey Shea, a teacher at Analy High School in Sebastopol, Calif., jumped at the chance last year to help create a Makerspace program at his school. Lots of good followed: Here's a piece by Shea about the experience.

This year, Shea had a true penny-dropping moment when he realized that his school's laser cutter could easily craft exactly the kinds of materials that many schools and teachers spend thousands of dollars to buy: Maps, cut from white boards on which students can fill in country (or state) names and later easily erase; the outline of a clock also on a white board to help students practice telling time; white board graphs for mathematical equations, and so on.

What makes this idea so compelling is that the "white board" materials are readily available at places like Home Depot for pennies per square foot. (Or you can, as Shea relishes doing, go "dumpster diving" for cardboard.)

Laser cutters have come down in price dramatically: Shea says the tool he uses costs about $3,500 but lower priced devices are available, too. The software will be familiar, too: "Teachers should know that they can create the design files in Microsoft Word or similar word processing software or simply resize and 'print' an existing doc to create a whiteboard model that they would otherwise print on paper," Shea says.

Shea plans to run a summer workshop at his school in the coming months to help train teachers. We'll keep an eye on it--and be ready to share any handy templates of things teachers might want to make. And that laser cutter cost? Perhaps your students would be excited about taking part in a fund-raising campaign--say, via Donors Choose or IndieGogo or the very student-friendly fund-raising site, PIggyBackr. By the time you have the dollars lined up for that laser cutter, we're betting that Shea will have the templates ready for you to cut!

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