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Bargain Materials for Your STEM Class


We always look for bargains and items we can use in STEM class! I know you agree and I have some great ideas for you- from a dollar store!

A few years ago I discovered I could save money on STEM materials. I know you want in on this little secret about bargains for your STEM Class, but I imagine you already know about Dollar Tree. Well, did you know I can find 28+ items we use all the time?

That’s right! Twenty-eight must-haves for STEM class- all at bargain prices!

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that Amazon will pass on small percentages to me with your purchase of items. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

Let me start by telling you that I am not affiliated with Dollar Tree. I offer suggestions for items that don’t cost much because I am just like you. When I need something for my classroom I often pay for it myself- just like you do. If I can find useful items at a bargain price I am all for it!

The Tool Department

STRING– Oh, my word, string is so expensive and we use it all the time. I found these cotton twine rolls one day and bought all they had. You can also substitute with yarn, but yarn is stretchy.

ROPE – I use rope for ziplines and a ski lift challenge. This pack (made of blue) is the perfect length for STEM- think pulleys.

TOOLBOX– We use this box for escape rooms! It’s a perfect size and has a spot for attaching a lock.

LOCKS– Speaking of locks. For escape rooms, I use combination locks, but if you need to save a lot of money buy these keyed locks and use my ‘paper lock’ coding system with them.

The Craft Department

MARBLES– I have had trouble finding marbles in large stores, but you can find these in the floral section of the craft dept. We use them for roller coasters and mazes. You can also use them for weights. In fact, get the flat-sided marbles to use for weights.

FEATHERS– Now, to be honest, I have only used feathers for one challenge. It was an animal adaptation challenge and we needed feathers for our birds. They were messy because white glue…

BEADS– This little bag will last forever. We use these for robots and the animal adaptations challenge.

POM-POMS– Catapults, pom-pom launchers, towers, robots, and more! We use a lot of pom-poms. You can substitute cotton balls, but I like to color-code the catapult teams with different colors.

The Toy Department

LITTLE CARS– Similar little cars are about $4 at Walmart. So, definitely try to find these at the bargain price of $1!

LEGO– I know it’s not real Lego. but it still works. Also, look for the large flat pieces for bases.

PING PONG BALLS – We use these for roller coasters, cargo drops, the amusement park ride challenge, and more. Real ping pong balls are expensive and easily dented, so these less expensive ones are perfect.

MODELING DOUGH– I don’t use a lot of modeling dough, but when I need it I always get it at Dollar Tree. They have these tiny cans that are just the right size for a team to use. They would fit perfectly in STEM bins.

The Party Department

PROPELLERS– These little plastic propellers are in the party favors section and are perfect for windmills.

BALLOONS– Many bags of many colors. I usually grab one of every color because this is another thing I color code for each team.

Color coding for balloons means that every team member gets a different color. Students know only to touch the ballooon in their assigned color!

FAVOR BOXES- These little paper boxes are great for anything that requires a pre-made structure. We use them for our flood barrier challenge as little doghouses. The back-story of that challenge is to build a flood-proof structure for a dog house.

GOLD COINS– These are sometimes hard to find! We use them when we build treasure chests!


SKEWERS– These skinny wooden sticks are great when we need a more stable structure or a car axle. I snip off the pointed ends before giving them to students. They can also be snipped in half with wire cutters. I find wire cutters better than just breaking sticks. More accurate!

POOL NOODLES – Now is the time of year to grab a few of these. They make great bases for sailboats and later in December you will not be able to find a pool noodle. Or if you do, it will NOT be one dollar!

PLASTIC TABLE CLOTH– We occasionally paint in our lab and I always cover the tables with a tablecloth. This one from the Dollar Tree is quite thin so it makes a great parachute canopy.

FOAM CUPS – I grab these at Dollar Tree because we use them in all sizes. Dollar Tree often has a smaller size than Walmart. Look for red plastic cups or white plastic cups at Dollar Tree, too.

Kitchenware Department

SNACK-SIZE ZIPPERED BAGS– This size is perfect for placing small items in supply bins or for small items students need to store from one week to the next. I use them myself for storage of small things.

FOIL – These boxes of pre-cut foil are the ones I use. They are the best size and already cut which saves me time. Just pull out the sheets you need and they easily fit in a supply bin.

FOAMBOARD– Yes, foam board. Do you know how much this costs at Walmart or Hobby Lobby? These sheets are probably a little smaller but they are ONE DOLLAR! White and black are usually available. We use them for maze bases, towers, platforms, and rafts.

NOTEPADS– Dollar Tree always has notepads in many sizes. My students love to jot down notes on any little pad so I grab packs of these instead of large pieces of paper .

More Miscellaneous

BINS– Plastic bins are always a good idea from Dollar Tree- EXCEPT plastic shoe boxes. Here is the biggest tip I can give you. Buy plastic shoe boxes at Walmart. The Sterilite brand is 88 cents and the lid always snaps on well.

PLASTIC TRAYS – We use old cafeteria trays to carry supplies, but these smaller plastic ones would work for you. They come in many colors. Also, buy your foil trays and pans at Dollar Tree.

TISSUE PAPER– We use these for parachutes and anything we need to “stuff”, like robotic hands.

BIC PENS- Y’all I stopped using pencils. Too many students, too much sharpening, too much eraser dust, too many broken pencils. We use these black Bic pens instead. I have done this for several years. I have only had one pen leak a big mess. The pens don’t break. Students do lose the caps, but the pen still writes. They last forever. I don’t have to sharpen them.

So, save some money and grab these simple materials. Stock up and get ready to build!


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