A lunch box, couple of pencils, small box of crayons and a little tub of paste with a brush in the cap. There. All set for school, right?
Not even close. If tradition were to guide parents’ choices, their child would be woefully behind the times.
Even so, Beth Krutz, principal at Central Elementary School in Valparaiso, said it’s not easy to give an exact list of supplies that applies to every grade, since requirements differ between grade levels and individual teachers. Thankfully, it’s all made clear for parents with a supplies list that’s sent home with each child along with the final report card before summer, “so parents can start planning the expenses and checking the sales.” And just in case the list drops off the fridge or hides under the couch, the list is also posted online.
“We’re seeing that a lot of teachers like the highlighters and Post-it notes," Krutz said. "Things like that can help kids stay active during a lecture, by highlighting questions, or by using the sticky notes to write the ‘pros’ of an issue on one side and the ‘cons’ on the other. And teachers use them as much as the kids do: When grading papers they’ll write their comments on a sticky note instead of writing on the student’s paper.”
Paste is replaced by squeeze bottles or glue sticks, according to a teacher’s preference. “Some teachers also like book covers, too. But the one thing everyone wants on that list is a box of tissues, definitely,” Krutz said with a chuckle. “They’re used everywhere.” Some schools require three boxes of Kleenex every semester.
Over Krutz’s 22 years as an educator, calculators became a staple, but now, “Kids are using online tools as well,” Krutz said, and a lot of those programs include calculators.
Tiny but essential
One of the most important tools for older grades is small enough to keep on a key chain. Ken Newton, starting his first year as principal at Kahler Middle School in Dyer, Ind., explained, “As technology plays a bigger role in schools, flash drives save students’ classroom work so they can take it home and work on assignments.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that “Flash drives are going to become obsolete real soon,” said Newton, who comes to Kahler from Clark Middle School in St. John, Ind., where he was assistant principal. “Many students are beginning to work online with such sites as Google Drive. Students save their work from school and collaborate on group projects from home on Google. It’s also a way for kids to discuss their own questions with classmates."
Some supplies haven’t changed -- just preferences. Krutz noted in elementary schools, teachers list notebooks in certain colors, while Newton said middle schools commonly require loose-leaf paper. “Protractors are still on the list. File folders are a convenient organizational tool. And many classes are using highlighters to reflect on something they’ve read,” he said.
Parents get a break when it comes to art classes. “Most of the art materials are already supplied for middle school especially, because not everyone takes art,” Newton said. Fifth graders in Lake Central School Corporation take art for nine weeks, but those supplies on a list are minimal because the art teachers will supply the rest. More good news: Because of online programs and technology, “Supplies lists are starting to shrink a little bit,” says Newton.
For families whose budgets are already stretched too thin, schools have supplies available all through the school year, furnished by the schools, churches and organizations. And for those learning to speak English as a second language, the Compass Learning Program provides backpacks with school supplies already in them.
Before kids head back to class, Krutz said parents can supply kids with even more important tools. During the summer, it’s having students read and engage their minds. And in fall, send the kids back to school well rested and with a good breakfast.