One of the blockers to implementing STEM in classrooms can be the lack of funds for materials for construction. Most schools do not have sufficient financial resources to supply unlimited consumables. Even if you have access to materials, masking tape, glue and other fixing materials must be accounted for. The following suggestions may assist to limit the amount of money spent on construction materials:
- Collect recycled materials – cardboard tubes and boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles and lids, newspapers and magazines. Advertise in the school newsletter and ask that containers are thoroughly washed. Ask students to bring the materials in only the week before, so storage is not too onerous. A good Makerspace is equipped with storage for all sorts of construction materials.
- Parents may be able to donate materials from their workplace – fabric samples or wood off-cuts, superseded stock, plant pots or packaging materials.
- Ebay and online shops may have the kinds of materials you need at reasonable cost. You may also find materials at markets, clearing sales, $2 shops or opportunity shops.
- Natural materials may be collected on the beach, in the garden or out in the bush – shells, driftwood, flotsam and jetsam, sticks and branches, seed pods, dried grass, stones, leaves, sand and gravel may be suitable for some projects, such as building an animal habitat or diorama.
- Provide kits of materials to groups of students, only after they have provided a clear, labelled drawing of their design. This reduces the likelihood of students hoarding large amounts of materials that aren’t used efficiently. Zip lock plastic bags can be useful for this and may be re-used as part of the construction or for another activity.
- Provide a price list and budget for the activity. You may like to use Monopoly money or an income and expenses table, so students can calculate the cost of materials. You may like to change the budget and cost of materials depending on what numeracy activities students are doing – whole numbers, multiples of 10 or 100 or decimals.
Have you got any ideas you would like to share about how to provide materials for student projects?