A few years ago I discovered I could save a lot of money on STEM materials. I know you want in on this little secret about bargains for your STEM Class, but I imagine you already know about Dollar Tree. Well, did you know I can find 28+ items that we use all the time?
That’s right! Twenty-eight must-haves for STEM class- all only for $1.00. Now, if you have been hanging around my blog for very long you know I wrote a post about this a few years ago. Some of the items from that original post are things we still use, but Dollar Tree has new things! Hang onto your hats, folks, and let’s zip through my massive list- that might have a few tips along the way!
Let me start by telling you that I am not affiliated with Dollar Tree at all. I offer my suggestions for items that don’t cost very much because I am just like you. When I need something for my classroom I often pay for it myself- just like you do. If I can find useful items at a bargain price I am all for it!
Let’s Start in the Tool Department
STRING– Oh, my word, string is so expensive and we use it all the time. I found these cotton twine rolls one day and bought all they had. You can also substitute with yarn, but yarn is stretchy.
ROPE – I use rope for ziplines and for a ski lift challenge. This pack (made of blue) is the perfect length for STEM- think pulleys.
TOOLBOX– We use this box for escape rooms! It’s a perfect size and has a spot for attaching a lock.
LOCKS– Speaking of locks. For our escape rooms I use combination locks, but if you need to save a lot of money buy these keyed locks and use my ‘paper lock’ coding system with them.
The Craft Department
MARBLES– I have had trouble finding marbles in large stores, but you can find these in the floral section of the craft dept. We use them for roller coasters and mazes. You can also use them for weights. In fact, even better, get the flat-sided marbles to use for weights.
FEATHERS– Now, to be honest, I have only used feathers for one challenge. It was an animal adaptation challenge and we needed feathers for our birds. They were messy because white glue…
BEADS– This little bag will last forever. We use these for robots and the animal adaptations challenge.
POM-POMS– Catapults, pom-pom launchers, towers, robots, and more! We use a lot of pom-poms. You can substitute cotton balls, but I like to color-code the catapult teams with different colors.
LITTLE CARS– Similar little cars like these are about $4 at Walmart. So, definitely try to find these at the bargain price of $1!
LEGO– I know it’s not real Lego. but it still works. Also, look for the large flat pieces for bases.
PING PONG BALLS – We use these for roller coasters, cargo drops, the amusement park ride challenge, and more. Real ping pong balls are expensive and they are easily dented, so these less expensive ones are perfect.
MODELING DOUGH– I don’t use a lot of modeling dough, but when I need it I always get it at Dollar Tree. They have these tiny cans that are just the right size for a team to use. They would fit perfectly in STEM bins or bins for STEM for One student.
The Party Department
PROPELLERS– These little plastic propellers are in the party favors section and they are perfect for windmills.
BALLOONS– Many bags of many colors. I usually grab one of every color because this is another thing I color code for each team.
Color coding for balloons means that every team member gets a different color. Students know to only touch the ballooon in their assigned color!
FAVOR BOXES- These little paper boxes are great for anything that requires a pre-made structure. We use them for our flood barrier challenge as little doghouses. The back-story of that challenge is to build a flood-proof structure for a dog house.
GOLD COINS– These are sometimes hard to find! We use them when we build treasure chests!
SKEWERS– These skinny wooden sticks are great when we need a more stable structure or a car axle. I snip off the pointed ends before giving them to students. They can also be snipped in half with wire cutters. I find wire cutters better than just breaking sticks. More accurate!
POOL NOODLES – Now is the time of year to grab a few of these. They make great bases for sailboats and later in December you will not be able to find a pool noodle. Or if you do, it will NOT be one dollar!
PLASTIC TABLE CLOTH– We do occasionally paint in our lab and I always cover the tables with a table cloth. This one from the Dollar Tree is quite thin so it also makes a great parachute canopy.
FOAM CUPS – I do grab these when I am at Dollar Tree because we use them in all sizes. Dollar Tree often has a smaller size than Walmart. Look for red plastic cups or white plastic cups at Dollar Tree, too.
SNACK-SIZE ZIPPERED BAGS– This size is perfect for placing small items that you put in supply bins or for small items students need to store from one week to the next. I use them myself for storage of small things.
FOIL – These boxes of pre-cut foil are the ones I use anytime a challenge needs foil. They are the best size and already cut which saves me time. Just pull out the sheets you need and they easily fit in a supply bin.
FOAMBOARD– Yes, foam board. Do you know how much this costs at Walmart or Hobby Lobby? These sheets are probably a little smaller but they are ONE DOLLAR! White and black are usually available. We use them for maze bases, towers, platforms, and rafts.
NOTEPADS– Dollar Tree always has notepads in many sizes. My students love to jot down notes on any little pad so I grab packs of these instead of having large pieces of paper wasted.
BINS– Plastic bins are always a good idea from Dollar Tree- EXCEPT plastic shoe boxes. Here is the biggest tip I can give you. Buy plastic shoe boxes at Walmart. The sterilite brand is 88 cents and the lid always snaps on well.
PLASTIC TRAYS – We use really old cafeteria trays to carry supplies, but these smaller plastic ones would work for you. They come in many colors. Also, buy your foil trays and pans at Dollar Tree.
TISSUE PAPER– We use these for parachutes and anything we need to “stuff”, like robotic hands.
BIC PENS- Y’all I stopped using pencils. Too many students, too much sharpening, too much eraser dust, too many broken pencils. We use these black Bic pens instead. I have done this for several years. I have only had one pen leak a big mess. The pens don’t break. Students do lose the caps, but the pen still writes. They last forever. I don’t have to sharpen them.
There you are STEM Friends! Bargains that you definitely need to add to your STEM supplies.
If you are curious about the old, old post about bargains for your STEM class, here is a link: