Help me spend PTA money: Ideas for remote activities for K-8 students
December 28, 2020 1:12 PM   Subscribe

There is a pot of PTA money available, and I am looking for ideas for how to spend it. All of the students are learning entirely remotely and will continue to do so for... well, who knows, but assume a while. These could be physical items to buy and distribute (e.g., sketchpads), or online activities (e.g., a remote music performance), or...? Links to lists of concrete ideas are okay, and even better if you have suggestions for things that have worked well for you and your students (either as a parent or a teacher).
posted by puffyn to Education (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you update with a budget? "A pot of money" could mean $800 or $8,000.
posted by juniperesque at 1:53 PM on December 28, 2020

My nephew (6th grade) made Rice Krispie treats at home, led by a teacher on zoom and the PTA dropped off ingredients for all kids who weren’t able to get them on their own. Apparently it went over really well and was a way for the students to interact that they hadn’t really been doing since the beginning of the school year.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Little eirias’ class had an optional activity similar to the one raccoon409 suggests, though in her case parents had to buy the ingredients (the funds went to a company that organizes this sort of cooking class for children). That seemed to go reasonably well. Another grade did a craft kit together over Zoom.

If you want to do something synchronous, I don’t know that I’d try to plan something school-wide, as that might get unwieldy. I could imagine asynchronous contests being school wide: here are ten strands of spaghetti, what’s the tallest structure you can build? That sort of thing. Since your school has lots of grades, you might want to think about grade level challenges or winners, if it’s something the older kids might be better at.
posted by eirias at 2:45 PM on December 28, 2020

Sorry, should have ballparked: total is $10k (it doesn't have to all get spent but...)
posted by puffyn at 3:13 PM on December 28, 2020

You don't say how many kids you are buying for, and what type of school district, but here are some ideas:

Earphones with built in microphones for online classes- theses are great for kids to focus when other stuff is going on in the home. They have bulk sets you can buy from school vendors.

A wireless mouse are also great, and much better for most online programs.

Author Visits- and every kid gets a copy of the author's book to read before the visit. (Here is the place that sets up most of the best author visits: You can purchase books in bulk from the publisher at a reduced cost

Movie night- stream a movie via Zoom, and drop off bags with popcorn, beverage, and other movie related stuff before hand.

You could also look into a program for the whole school to use like Tumblebooks, program Scholastic has, or BrainPop. These items might be things your teachers could use to beef up their online instruction.

Finally, as a school librarian, I am working with a school to revamp the school's book collection for when the school does reopen. $10,000 would go a long way in a school library.
posted by momochan at 3:51 PM on December 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'd do survey and find out what people are struggling with first, then make a budgeted strategy for dealing with those issues. That $10k probably came from the people who you are going to be spending it on, you should find out what they actually need you to do with it.
posted by bleep at 3:53 PM on December 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

Further to momochan's suggestion of author visits, you could sponsor some virtual field trips to museums, aquariums etc. is a good place to look for some of the stuff that is available.
posted by cholly at 4:03 PM on December 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would love for my students to have better art supplies at home, like a nice set of paints with watercolor paper, bright colored construction paper, modeling clay, and good markers.

I would also love if each student had a set of base 10 blocks and maybe some fraction tiles. I teach 4th/5th grade, ymmv.
posted by mai at 7:29 PM on December 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Sparkfun Inventor's Kit or the AdaFruit Experimentation Kit. Each kit is a self-contained introduction to basic electronics and computer programming with Arduino boards. (The Adafruit one will be listed as out of stock because they've diverting resources to make PPE for COVID, but but it from one of their distributors; links on that page). Each comes with a booklet that you can read before you buy. They're $100 and $85 respectively.
posted by at at 10:31 PM on December 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been active in our PTO and my wife continues to be. In the years past, a portion of the reserve was made available to teachers. A sub-committee for Innovation Grants was formed. Teachers could submit a one page form describing what they'd need and how much it would cost. The thinking was to not make it onerous on teachers. As they are seeing the kids on Zoom, they may have a good idea as to what may be useful.

I think that there is lot of leeway in terms of what would be helpful to students and teachers. Is it some sort of button that is a USB plug in for muting/un-muting Zoom? Is it some sort of reward for handing work in on time? Is it a gift card that is raffled off every week based on participation/effort/homework/kindness? What would help the kids most? Hand held signs that say "You're Muted" or "Raises hand". Are those useful or would they be a hassle to teachers.

In the past, we have gotten supplies/kits/electronics/playground equipment/audio equipment, etc through the Innovation Grant process.

As a side note, our PTO has crazy by-laws that require them to carry a 2 year operational reserve. For us, that has been about 56K. As stated, crazy.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:50 AM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

A number of PTAs near me have put most of the budget recently towards helping families with rent and food. I think it's worth seeing if this money can go to a few of your families who need it the most.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:21 PM on January 6

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