At the MakerBus we have a lot of experience creating maker projects with next-to-no-money. Dollar Stores can be a frugal maker’s best friend. In this blog post we’re going to share some ideas and trips for fun, educational, and creative dollar store maker projects.
What is a “Dollar Store?”
For us a dollar store isn’t a place, it’s a way of thinking. Sure most communities have some form of “dollar store” – a store that sells inexpensive, often mass-produced, goods in the $1-$3 range. We strongly believe that the maker movement should be about creative reuse and recycling. Dollar store making is about finding inexpensive ways to build creative projects.
Where do I find inexpensive stores?
If you’re looking for inexpensive stores to find supplies for maker projects you have three main options.
Option 1: Chain dollar stores (like Dollar Tree) – these stores are good because they can be found in most places and often have standardized products, meaning that you can generally depend on them having certain things. On the other hand, stores like this also represent the height (or nadir) of our mass-produced society.
Option 2: Second hand stores – these stores can be found in most communities and have reused goods at discounted prices. The big limitation is that you never know what these stores will have.
Option 3: Community-specific gems – In London we’re lucky to have stores like Forest City Surplus, ElElSu, and Len’s Mill. Stores like these have eclectic mixes of everything and anything. Talk to people in your community and try to figure out where your local gems are.
Dollar Store Maker Projects
Here are some ideas for inexpensive dollar store maker projects.
DIY Macro Lens: Using a laser pointer, a bobby pin, and a piece of tape you can make a really impressive magnifying device.
Regrow Kitchen Scraps: This is a $0 project. Ask students to bring certain vegetable scraps from home and make a classroom garden to watch them regrow. If you want to avoid the mess of dirt, place the ends of scallions into water, place them near a window, and watch them regrow in a few days.
Blow CD Bubbles: This project involves an open flame so it’s best to be done by a teacher, but this is a great way to demonstrate the amazing physical properties of certain types of plastic.
Get Creative With Origami: Origami projects are great ways to engage students in design and engineering and the best thing is that it only uses paper! Projects like this show how much creative learning can be achieved with so few materials.
Make a Penny Battery: Make a DIY battery and use it to power a dollar store calculator.
Check Out Pinterest: Yes, you finally have an excuse to use Pinterest for work. Educators from across the world are using Pinterest to share ideas, lesson plans, and inexpensive projects. Check out the search “dollar store science” for some ideas.
Hold a Paper Airplane Competition: Paper airplanes are perfect for engaging students in the science of flight. Ask students to research different award-winning designs. Hold a number of different test flights. Encourage students to iterate on their designs. Paper airplane competitions embody the best of the maker movement.
Make Homemade Conductive Paint: Store bought conductive paint is expensive. Try making your own with your class. By mixing your own, you’ll save a lot of money.
Good makers borrow, great makers steal
The maker movement is all about learning from others. Don’t feel like you need to come up with entirely original dollar store projects yourself. Search online for projects, creating learning communities on Twitter to discuss ideas, email other teachers and ask for their secrets. Take other people’s ideas and make them your own.
No one knows your class and their needs better than you. By adapting other people’s ideas, you can make engaging, affordable, dollar store maker projects for your students.
If you liked this article, why not follow the MakerBus on twitter (@DHMakerBus) or like us on Facebook (/dhmakerbus)? We post some of the most creative maker projects found on the web every day. If you #getonthebus, we promise a fun ride!
-The MakerBus team