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Dear Santa:
A Holiday Wish List
For Schools

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Over a year, U.S. teachers will spend more than $1 billion of their own money on classroom supplies. Even so, many schools, especially the neediest urban schools, continue to suffer from a lack of the basic supplies and enriching supplementary materials their students need. Keep those schools -- and their students and teachers -- in mind this year as you complete your holiday shopping!

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Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four children, has been an education writer for nearly two decades. Starr is the curriculum and technology editor for Education World.

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According to a study conducted by Quality Education Data (QED), each year teachers in the United States spend more than $1 billion of their own money on classroom supplies. In fact, the study found, only 40 percent of the money spent on classroom supplies in this country is provided by school districts; 60 percent of those supplies are purchased by individual teachers for their own classrooms.

What do teachers spend their hard-earned money on? Responding to an Eisenhower National Clearinghouse Poll, 26 percent of teachers said they spent money on such supplemental materials as videos, software, learning kits, and activity books; 25 percent bought basic needs such as pencils, paper, bandages, facial tissue, and food for hungry children; 22 percent purchased art supplies or science materials; 21 percent bought trade books to enrich their lessons and classroom activities.

On average, the QED study found, K-8 teachers spend more than $500 a year each on school supplies; new teachers spend about $700 a year. Even so, many schools, especially the neediest urban schools, continue to suffer from a lack of basic supplies and enriching supplementary materials that could greatly enhance the educational experience of their students.

Why not keep those schools -- and their students and teachers -- in mind this year as you complete your holiday shopping? You’ll find that they’re a lot easier to buy for than those distant cousins you’ve been fretting over -- and a lot more grateful!

For the ultimate holiday gift, visit Adopt a Classroom. This educator’s answer to the Nordstrom’s catalog will send your $500 donation directly to a classroom of your choice or to a needy classroom in your area. In return, you’ll receive letters, artwork, and e-mail from your adopted students throughout the school year. It’s the gift that keeps on giving back!

DonorsChoose is another site that allows interested individuals to easily contribute any amount -- from $1 to $1 million -- to education in their community. On DonorsChoose, public school teachers from across the United States post classroom project requests ranging from "pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class." Potential donors browse requests and give whatever they can to the project(s) they're interested in. When the project's funding needs are fulfilled, DonorsChoose sends the supplies to the classroom, Who says there's no money for extras in today's schools?

If you're specifically interested in providing kids with up-to-date classroom technology, Digital Wish is the place to shop. At this Web site,teachers create wish lists of technology products for their classroom. Donors then connect with their favorite schools and grant classroom wishes through online cash or product donations. You can make every day Cyber Monday in your favorite classroom.

Looking for a slightly less expensive gift idea? Schools always need books -- lots and lots of books. If you’re unsure of which books to buy, ask your favorite school to register its needs at Amazon.com's Wish List.

Still haven't found exactly the giving tree you're looking for? Check out ILoveSchools, a nonprofit online donation center that connects new, used, and in-kind resources with U.S. classrooms.

If you still can’t find the right gift for the school on your list, why not help Santa out by taking a peek at the teachers’ wish list below. You’re sure to find something there in your price range and your gift to a school, unlike that Christmas tie you bought Cousin Charlie, is tax deductible!

 
musical instruments (new or used)
digital clocks
board games
legos
arts and craft supplies
music cds or tapes
puppets
sports equipment
stationery, postcards, and stamps
pillows and bean bag chairs
dictionaries, thesauruses, and
encyclopedias
frequent flyer miles for college visits
math manipulatives
small toys or bags of candy for prizes
and rewards
hair clips, barrettes, and scrunchies
chess and checker sets
tissues and wet wipes
mouse pads
science and social studies videos
magnetic white boards
toilet articles
maps, globes, atlases
art and movie posters
calculators
batteries
bookcases and storage cabinets
calligraphy pens and ink
box fans
cleaning supplies
dry erase markers
keyboard covers
carpet squares
wooden puzzles
laminators and laminating supplies
hats, mittens, and scarves
food scales
digital cameras
stamp pads and stickers
transparencies
car seats for preschool busses

If you can’t afford to buy a gift this year, volunteer! Schools need tutors, career speakers, technology trainers, Webmasters, office helpers, pen pals, mentors, and more. And the gift of yourself is the best gift of all!