Party Kits for Elementary School Classrooms

If you have time to be in your children’s classrooms —especially during times of celebration–you quickly notice the huge disconnect between the green talk and the everyday walk at school.  Our children are often taught about doing what’s right for the Earth. They are exhorted to recycle, to turn off lights, and not to run the water while brushing their teeth. But whether it’s Halloween parties, Birthday parties, Harvest Festivals, or myriad other occasions, a lot of habitual waste goes on in the classroom.

This year I offered to make up a “party kit” for my 2nd grader’s classroom. It’s easy to do, convenient for the classroom, and eliminates the need for many paper and plastic products and throw-away single item packaging.

I put the party kit together mostly by visiting house sales, consignment shops and thrift stores.  (Fair warning: if you plan to do this for your child’s classroom, start ahead and keep a look-out for the things you need. You may not be able to acquire 24 teaspoons in one fell swoop.)

The kit consists of:

  • 24 stainless steel forks
  • 24 stainless steel teaspoons

Average price at a thrift store: $.25/piece.

  • 24 cotton bandanas (18” x 18”) as napkins

Purchased by the dozen online: $1.00 each.

  • 24 assorted 7” ceramic plates

Average price at thrift store: approximately $.50/each.

  •  24 polypropylene (plastic #5) cups

Purchased from IKEA: $1.99 for eight.

  • A tote-bin with snap-on lid to keep it all together

Purchased from Kmart: $13.49.  Good candidates can be found by chance at thrift and consignment stores.

This kit supplies everything the kids will need this year for any classroom parties, and it will stay in the classroom for elementary school kids many years into the future.

After the party, one parent schleps the bin home, washes the napkins, runs the dishes through the dishwasher, and returns it to the classroom. It’s not a big deal.  Over time, the kit not only prevents waste, but also demonstrates to the children that it is both easy and practical to employ durable ware vs. single-use alternatives that are trashing the environment.  As the sustainability consultant Peter Senge remarked: “Kids today should grow up thinking that the stupidest thing in the whole world is to throw something away.”

A party kit for the classroom is not terribly expensive to put together, considering that it will be used over and over again for years (with occasional losses and additions, no doubt).

For teachers or parents who like this idea, but feel the cost is still steep, I’d like to recommend putting specific things on the school supply list prior to the start of school.  Each student could be asked to bring in a reusable stainless steel fork and spoon, a knife (only if the kids would need them and can handle them responsibly), a 7” ceramic plate, and a cloth napkin.  In this way everyone would contribute a small amount in order to have a reusable kit. If these items were picked up at a thrift store, the outlay would probably amount to $3.00 per child.  Or maybe one parent volunteer could assemble a party kit and ask each family to kick-in a small amount – no more than $3.00 to $4.00 for their share.

We love a party, and it’s all the more to celebrate if our parties can also illustrate the responsibility we take for the Earth we will leave to our children.



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