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Why back-to-school lists are so long and specific. And what's up with the 3 dozen glue sticks?
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
selective focal photo of crayons in yellow box

This story originally appeared on 08.11.15.


It's back-to-school time (yaaassss!), but that means it's also the time when you have to tackle those super-long, super-specific school supply lists (uggghhhh!).

You know what I'm talking about — the 15-plus-items-long list of things your kids need for school.

As a bonus, they're often brand-name specific. Seriously. Because Elmer's glue is apparently just that different from generic store brand glue.


Based on the venting ( "OMG, everyone is sold out of pre-sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils!") and cries for help I'm seeing from my fellow parents on social media ("Where did you find three wide-ruled draw-and-write composition books?" — OK, I admit that was my question), a lot of our public school kiddos are being given supply lists quite similar to this one:

woman in white and multicolored floral long-sleeved mini dress with green backpackPhoto by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Sample school supply list created from actual lists I've collected. Some items have been switched between lists to protect the innocent.

While many public schools send these lists to parents, in certain states they're "requests" not "requirements" (even when not clearly presented that way) because some states cannot legally require students to provide their own school supplies.

Optional or required, however, these school supply lists are important.

I know, I know — lots of us parents have many feelings about them, like:

  • We didn't have to buy a specific list of supplies when we were kids (walking uphill both ways, two miles, in the snow).
  • This is public school, not private school! Can't the glue sticks come out of my taxes?
  • This list is so name-brand specific. Are Elmer's glue sticks reallllyyyy that superior to these cheaper, generic ones?
  • Seriously?? So many glue sticks?! Just ... what?

And we can all agree that it's not right that public school budgets are regularly slashed and aren't big enough to cover the basic necessities essential for our kids' success. (You know, like pencils.) And in some cases, budgets are misused, and that's not right, either.

black cordless headphones beside sport bottle and notebookPhoto by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

But as much as parents dread shopping for school supplies, our children's teachers probably dread having to ask.

Katie Sluiter, a mom of three and teacher of 13 years, shares in parents' frustrations about supplies — just from a different perspective. "I struggle every single August with having to ask for [supply] donations. I hate it," she says.

She'd love to stop asking parents to bring in a combined total of 800 pencils and 1,000 glue sticks and just buy them herself. But as a teacher, she simply cannot afford to do it.

"I hate that we have two full-time salaried workers in our house. ... I have an advanced degree, and we are still living paycheck to paycheck. It feels shameful to have to ask every. single. year. for donations. Teachers don't want to ask for handouts. We just want to teach."

"Teachers don't want to ask for handouts. We just want to teach." — Katie Sluiter

Nicole Johansen, a mom of two who was a teacher for 12 years, echoes Sluiter's sentiments. She cites never ending budget cuts as well as the need to stretch other funds, like PTO-raised money, further and further as the reasons supply lists exist and adds, "It is frustrating knowing that schools should be appropriately allotted funds for supplies — this said from the parent AND teacher standpoint."

So most of us are on the same page here. Class supply lists are the pits ... for everyone!

The most significant thing to remember, though, is that if your budget allows, it's important to purchase the items on the list.

If you're not purchasing the supplies, it's very likely your child's teacher will have to — with his or her own money.

Image by Thinkstock.

And we've already established that teacher salaries aren't cutting it when it comes to taking care of their families and their students.

And maybe it's not so much that teachers have to spend their own paychecks on classroom supplies, but they want to because an overwhelming majority of teachers genuinely care about their students.

"I wish all parents knew how much teachers love and sacrifice for their students," Johansen said. "Pretty much all teachers I know will be spending for their classroom despite having to cut back the grocery bill for their family."

"I wish all parents knew how much teachers love and sacrifice for their students." — Nicole Johansen

"No, we don't have to spend all that time and money on our classrooms, but it makes it a quality experience when your children have things like science experiments, books, art supplies, and a comfortable, cozy classroom environment."

woman wearing white sweaterPhoto by Yustinus Tjiuwanda on Unsplash

OK, but seriously, what do they do with all of those glue sticks?!

I know I'm not the only one who opened up that list when my daughter was in first grade, choked on my coffee, and exclaimed, "THREE DOZEN GLUE STICKS?! What, are the kids eating them? [Probably. Little kids eat all kinds of gross stuff.] Are the teachers selling them for profit? [I wouldn't blame them. See above about teachers' salaries]."

Image by Thinkstock.

"We glue kids' mouths shut," Sluiter told me when I asked.

"Totally kidding. They last like 12 seconds ... [and] no matter how vigilant we are in supervising the picking up and putting away of supplies, each time we get the tub of glue sticks out, there are about three to five dead soldiers and lone caps rolling in the bottom of the bin."

(I love teachers with senses of humor!)

But back to the actual issue.

My friend Shannon summed up the class supply list conundrum perfectly, if bluntly:

She wants parents who can budget in school supplies without experiencing a financial burden to "quit complaining about some of the items being communal. Vote for politicians who will quit cutting money from schools. I don't remember my parents having to buy 20 glue sticks, but I certainly don't think any more should come out of teachers' pockets."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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You could say Marine biologist, divemaster and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her passion for ocean science to folks on dry land in a fresh, innovative and fun new way using virtual reality.

Images courtesy of Meta’s Community Voices film series

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and technology to provide one-of-a-kind experiential education about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a virtual underwater journey through the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a guide.

Viewers got to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles while exploring gorgeous aquatic landscapes and learning about the crucial role our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.


Hydrous then expanded on the idea to develop two more exciting augmented adventures using Meta Quest 2 technology: “Expedition Palau,” a live event where audiences can share a “synchronized immersive reality experience”, which includes live narration from Woolsey, and “Explore,” a “CGI experience” to enjoy the magic of the ocean at home.


www.youtube.com

“I’ve been extremely fortunate to explore and study coral reefs around the world,” Woolsey said, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these important habitats decay so rapidly while the latest scientific reports did not clearly lead to widespread compassionate action.

“How do we care about something we never see or experience?” she reflected. As she discovered, virtual reality would be a powerful solution for eliciting empathy. “VR has the ability to generate presence and agency and make you feel like you’re there. It's that emotional connection that can bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The combination of virtual reality and the ocean’s natural breathtaking beauty is, as Woolsey puts it, a “match made in heaven” for getting people more engaged in ocean education. “When you’re floating you can look up and down and all around you…seeing a school of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like structures. Rather than watching a video of a scientist, you get to become the scientist.”

Hydrous also has special kits to provide middle school students hands-on learning about ocean life. In addition to a journal, activity cards and a smartphone VR viewer, each kit includes lifelike 3D printed model pieces of a coral reef so that middle school students can try building their own.

These reef models even turn white when temperatures rise inside the aquarium, which mimics the real “bleaching” that corals endure when they die due to higher than normal ocean temperatures. Students really do become scientists as they figure out how to bring color back to their reef.

While it’s true that the health of our oceans affects us all, the growing threats our oceans face—pollution, overfishing, climate change—don’t always affect us on an empathetic level. Through the use of technology, Woolsey has created an innovative way to connect hearts and minds to one of the Earth’s most important resources, which can inspire real and lasting change.

“We can’t bring everybody to the ocean, but we’re finding scalable ways to bring the ocean to everyone.”

To learn more about Hydrous, click here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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