I wanted to share a fabulous teacher resource with all of my bloggy friends. RAFT is a non-profit that is located in Northern California (and now in Denver, CO) and has been a treasured resource regularly used by teachers. I haven't mentioned it much in the past, because I was worried that it might make some a bit envious and, being a pastor's wife, I really didn't feel that was a good thing for me to do to everyone! :) Now that they have a ton of resources available for free download and their kits can be purchased online, I feel a bit better. If you happen to travel to NorCal though, let me know. I would love to hook you up with a visit! So, here is the low-down!
RAFT is a teacher's haven. It is not a teacher store where you can buy a bunch of over-priced commercially made products. They have some of those items (at much better prices), but it is not typically what we all go for. RAFT is located in the heart of the Silicon Valley and is the "dumping" site for tons of wealthy companies who do not want to throw out materials, but would prefer to donate it for educational purposes. Yahoo, Meri-Meri, Apple, Klutz, HP, and countless other companies regularly donate materials to RAFT. There is everything from printer labels, funky dice, and brand new flat screen computer monitors ($35!) to bulk bin barrels (dozens and dozens) where you can fill any recycled shopping bag for $2.50! You never know what is in the bulk bins, but there is always a wide variety. I have scored hot fix Swarovski crystals, new metal bottle caps (great for games). packages of fancy envelopes, file folders, CDs, magnet tape, velcro, etc.... This last Christmas I bought 24 large puff glass star ornaments (each one approx 8" across) for $5! They were perfect parent gifts and were easily filled and decorated! One of my favorite things though is the file folders. I have been known to take them to the workroom (I will explain this fab place next) and use them with the die cut presses. They are sturdier than cardstock and are great for 3d shapes, pop-up cards, and anything requiring some stiffness. Plus, I can easily get 100+ for $2.50! Over the years I have gotten some amazing things at RAFT and it has definitely eased the financial burden of having next to no classroom budget.
The workroom is AWESOME! In the district that I teach there is no longer a teacher's resource room. There are no laminators, die cut presses, button machines, bookbinders, etc... We either buy these things ourselves or go without. RAFT has filled this void for many teachers, including myself. While I do have a personal laminator and a Silhouette (with which I could not live without!), but sometimes I need to cut super thick materials or repeats of a specific shape and it would take forever on the Silhouette. Also, I have a laminating addiction so the giant laminators are my friends! The workroom is also a great place for teachers to collaborate and giggle as we share our funny teacher stories. In addition to these physical resources, RAFT also hosts seminars on a wealth of topics, all for little to no cost. It is truly an amazing place!
My favorite thing about RAFT is something that is available to everyone online, their kits. Most of the kits are focused on Art, Science and Math, but there are some ELA kits also. There are kits for all grade levels and topics and they are common core aligned! During my forces and motion unit I use countless kits from RAFT. Some of my favorite kits are Roller Racers and Roll Back Cans (great for potential and kinetic energy lessons), Car on a Roll, Buzz Off, and Puff Rockets (these are the bomb). What is cool is that you can either purchase the kits online or you can print off the activity sheet (free) and make the kits yourself. Most of the materials are cheap (if not free from your recycling bin) and accessible. The best part is that these activities are rich and engaging hands-on explorations. Other things that you can purchase online include their blank card decks and dice (SO COOL)! I buy these all of the time. They are great for name cards or creating your own games. Unlike laminated cardstock, they are very durable (just like traditional, high quality playing cards). When I use them for games, I will use a different color deck for the different levels of the students (red-emergent, green- grade level, blue-advanced). It makes it easy for me to remember what to pull for which group! Also, when they are in my math workstation tubs the nuggets can easily choose the cards that they are suppose to use.
Here is my RAFT score from their back to school promotion. I will warn you...only look if you have tremendous resolve, live in Cali, or are planning a trip to Cali soon! I spent less than $100 for all of this (and 30 $.10 cute animal posters for my treasure chest & the bulk bags which I didn't even bother dumping). The lines this day were CRA-ZY! I have never waited this long in line at RAFT, but boy was it worth it!!
I hope that you enjoyed this peek into RAFT!
Until tomorrow :)