I had the same problem with wasted supplies when I taught HS. Most
students don't seem to understand budgets; all they see is an endless
stream of supplies. When we had to start incorporating a consumer
education lesson in our curric, I used the opportunity to teach the
students how to use a budget to "buy" painting supplies (although you
can adapt this idea for anything).
Each student got a budget sheet that noted how large their budget was.
It also showed the prices of tubes of paint, brushes, palette, and
palette knives (the prices were rounded-off values of what MY budget
paid for them). They were required to buy a package deal that included
a 1" brush, palette, and knife, which was deducted from their budget
amount. The remainder was not enough to buy every color or brush; they
had to make decisions about what was important to them. I sold them
partially-used tubes at a discount. Many teamed up with classmates and
pooled their budgets and shared paint and brushes. The budget sheet was
like real money; if they lost it, they had no more money with which to
This lesson was a great success. They became MUCH more careful with
their supplies, and waste was drastically reduced. Making them
personally responsible for their own budgets really drove home the
notion of conserving and cooperating, and that maybe used paints weren't
so bad after all (previously, they all wanted brand-new tubes; now they
realized that a half-tube of burnt umber might be plenty for what they
wanted to paint). I continued to use the lesson each time I taught
painting (which engendered the most waste). To cut down on constant
"selling" of supplies, I would get the students working on their
paintings, then would announce the "store" was open, and they could only
buy supplies then. I can send you the budget sheet as an attachment to
your e-mail address if you'd like to see it.
I didn't use this idea when I taught MS, but I think it would work just
fine. I would adapt it for MS by giving each _table_ a budget so they
could work together, thereby cutting down on the number of buyers.
To get students to take better care of supplies like brushes, many of us
on the list have marked numbers on the items and assigned each student a
number; they can only use the brush (or whatever else) that corresponds
to their assigned number. You'd be amazed how much more careful they
are when they know they have to use the same brush each day. For things
that can be shared like glue or scissors, each table has its own box of
supplies that they are responsible for (I named my tables after artists).
Being a bookkeeper, supply clerk, and conservation police is a real drag
and energy drainer; I hope these ideas help.
Heather Hayes wrote:
> I'm teaching middle school, and have GIANT classes (35 kids), and a
> pathetically small budget ($900 for the whole year). I'm having a
> HUGE issue with getting kids to conserve supplies. I don't have the
> energy/temperament/time/organizational skills/whatever to police every
> single small detail about how the kids use them. I've tried. If I
> police one thing, another type of supply gets wasted. If I spend all
> my time watching the use of materials, I don't have time to actually
> help the kids with the project itself. I've had talks about
> conserving with them, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in.