Sunday, May 31, 2009

School supplies already

Wow, I've been so involved in school that I haven't visited my own blog in a while. As our year winds down I've been thinking ahead to school supply lists for my art classes next year. This year I've paid attention to the tools all the students use, no matter what age, and have decided to write an informational article for our parents. Then I decided I'd share it here as well. So, if you're reading this and thinking I'm off my rocker already talking about supplies for next year, well just chalk it up to the fact that my students have driven me off the deep end--no wait, I'm just planning ahead. And rather than dump a massive article (in blog terms) here all at once, I think I'm going to serialize it, so tune in again for more schooooool supply tiiiiiips...


Well it's almost here: the end of the school year. Which means summer break, sleeping in and fun at the beach? No, it means it's time to buy more school supplies! Am I the only parent amazed at how quickly the back-to-school sales fliers come out and sales begin? Before you start stocking up, though, I have a few suggestions I'd like to share after watching students use those supplies in art class.

The first warning I have is to watch out for some of those bargain supplies. Now I understand about budgets—I live on one, too, and I know many families are feeling the pinch right now. But one of the biggest difficulties I have found this year is that many of those supplies I remember seeing at such fantastic prices turned out to be big duds. Specifically, there are a handful of major offenders that I want to discuss and give some recommendations about: pencils and colored pencils, crayons, glue sticks, and watercolor paints.

Colored pencils seem to be a perpetual problem, but in the last couple years I've noticed that regular pencils also create unneeded difficulties. Cheaply made pencils, of both kinds, have fragile leads inside and are glued in only a couple places. When they are dropped—and sooner or later they will be!—the leads break down inside the pencil and fall out when the student tries to write. Then the student has to sharpen the pencil, but unless the sharpening process goes below the break or the next glue spot, the pencil lead will still continue to fall out when the student tries to write again. With regular pencils this problem is compounded by exteriors that are made of flimsy wood. Pencils covered with decorative plastic coatings seem to be especially bad about this. Manufacturers seem to think that the plastic will bind the wood tightly enough that the poor quality wood will be reinforced and hold fast. But manufacturers don't live in the world of grade schoolers, who peel the decorative coatings off and drop things all the time. I have watched students spend one third of their class time sharpening pencils until they have almost nothing left. My recommendation is to buy a little higher quality pencil, which of course aren't the ones on sale, but especially avoid the plastic coated ones.

Next time: More on colored pencils and crayons

Photo credit: through (Thank you!)

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