Friday, July 26, 2013

Resouce Area For Teachers - A Teacher and Crafters Paradise!

Today, I thought I would share photos with you of one of the best days of my life.  Not in the same category as my wedding, the birth of my children nor our trip to Disneyland, but a day that set me on fire. That transformed a life long passion into a purpose.  This was the first day I ever visited RAFT - Resource Area For Teachers.

RAFT is a non-profit organization and an oasis in the sea of declining education budgets and salaries. It's purpose is to help educators transform a child's learning experience through hands-on education to one that inspires the joy and discovery of learning. RAFT provides hands-on Activity Kits and all kinds of materials at low cost by converting commonly found or discarded materials from the business community into supplies that can be used to teach children.

Only educators (including Sunday school teachers, day care providers and adult educators) are allowed to purchase an annual membership and almost all purchases need to be used towards education (although some items, like yarn, are marked OK for personal use). For someone like me who teaches creativity and innovation* by inviting children to create things from unrelated materials, RAFT is my primary source for supplies, inspiration and a great source of joy.
It has been 5 years since these photos were taken and there is even more wonderfulness now than there was back then.**

This is what you see when you first walk in the door of the enormous warehouse.  To the left is the "Green Room" where there are dozens of work stations set up with large hand roller and press die cutters, scissors, clips, envelopes, tape, glue, staplers, etc.  Jumbo paper trimmers are scattered around and the walls are covered with sample cuts from all of the dies that they have for you to use.  Stay as long as you want. No charge.

To the right of registration is the checkout area bordered by an island of inspiration!

A few steps away from registration is a refreshment counter that always has muffins, cookies, cakes, croissants, coffee, tea and filtered water because teachers deserve to be pampered too. Also, no charge.

Now you walk onto the main floor where you are greeted with the Activity Kits section.  Activity Kits are created by a team of former teachers, designed to use in the classroom and are made almost entirely with recycled materials.

Some kits serve just one, some a dozen, but most come with enough supplies to serve 20.

Even the packaging is recycled.  They use old Yahoo! labels to seal their kits.

They have demo projects out all over the floor so teachers can get a better idea of what they will have to work with.  In fact, if you are spotted looking at a demo without giving it a try one of the "former teacher and RAFT geniuses" will approach you to show you how it works.

On the weekends, "Smart Carts" are set up to engage shoppers and show them how the kits can be used in their classrooms.

This is brilliant.  Trim the metal strip sections from hanging files, attached it to a strip of paper, now you have hooks to hang art projects from in your classroom, child's room or studio.

Recycled books are bundled by age or subject and sell for $.50 each although on that day they were running a special, buy 2, get 1 free.  Every classroom should have a library, don't you agree?

Their yarn selection is incredible and it is OK to purchase for personal use.  A few times a month, they have an instructor sitting amongst a circle of chairs, right on the warehouse floor, teaching knitting to anyone who would like to learn.

Klutz books donate all of their blemished books so you can get most of their publications (which sell for around $20) for $3 or $4 just because the corner is smashed or the back page is torn off.  The more injuries, the cheaper the book.

Let's talk about the bulk items section.  There are bins and bins of misc. bits and pieces marked either yellow or blue.  Fill a yellow bag to the top, even bursting out of the sides- its a dollar.  A blue one, overflowing with cool stuff- just 5 bucks. (NOTE: Since this photo was taken RAFT has instituted the BYOB - bring your own bag policy for environmental reasons.)

Yellow bag bins
These are idea boards for the caps shown above.

These also go into the yellow bags and there is an idea board above it.  I took this photo so I'd remember the project. I made a sample to show the kids then invited them to make their own travel game - anything they wanted.  I supplied the magnets and they did the rest.  It was a hit!

Everything in this stand goes into a yellow bag.

 Some items are charged individually.

Binders run about $2 a case but sometimes they have so many they give them away for free.

They have copy paper, scissors, staplers, hole punches, tape, clips, highlighter and regular pens, dividers, labels, ink cartridges, letter openers, envelopes, folders, post-it notes, office rubber stamps, ink pads, pencils and sharpeners, cords, cables and any other kind of office supply you would ever need for pennies on the dollar.

This is their "Specialty Area" where they sell new items like paper, stickers and packaged classroom supplies. 

Now back to the Green Room where I parked my cart and picked up a few ideas before I checked out.

They have tables filled with paper projects, crafts and lessons including handouts you can take with you.

 These butterflies are die cuts from soda cans.

We've seen the flower on top of a pen trick at the Doctor's office but I fell in love with the pot! Empty tape rolls stacked and then paper pot die cuts glued outside. 

 These tulips are made from craft foam - just beautiful!

Every Thursday evening they have project tutorials in the Green Room for whomever would like to join in.  RAFT also has a whole other section devoted to classes and training.  There is a computer classroom where Adobe sends instructors to teach teachers how to use Photoshop, Illustrator and other software.  There are two more classrooms that host multiple classes weekly including The Magic and Mystery of Magnets, One Stroke Painting, History of Writing, Social and Emotional Learning, Hooked on Books - and that is just a few of this month's offerings.

The Green Room has paper for sale at 2-5 cents a sheet but a lot of us just dumpster dive into the recycle bin or use materials we bought from the warehouse.  Old posters and expired calendars make fabulous flowers and die cut letters!

You can see the trimmers, punches and other tools available to use right next to these wonderful paper daffodils.

I finally made it to check out - I had 2 full carts.  I dreaded hearing the total but just about fell off my feet when he said $42.10.  I really had died and gone to heaven.

The only problem I had to contend with was fitting it all into the car!

*I teach an enrichment program at St. Timothy's Lutheran School and at their church summer camp. My program is called Create and Innovate and it is the product of a fellowship I did in 2010 through the Institute of Innovation. This program, and many others fall under the purview of RAFT - Resouce Area For Teachers.

**The prices and supplies listed in this post have undoubted changed since these photos were taken in 2010.  I used notes from a 2010 FB entry to create this post.


  1. This place looks like magic to me!!!! How fantastic to have this for teachers of all kinds.

    Thanks by the way for the wonderful comment you left me about my hot air balloon card.

    My secret recipe to doing it all: I LOVE creating and so does my daughter so she spends a lot of time making things while I do!! Otherwise you will notice during the school winds down a lot

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