News & Current Events – School Outfitters Blog Furnishing Great Places To Learn Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:51:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Win a Classroom Makeover at NAEYC! Tue, 04 Nov 2014 21:13:41 +0000 We’ll be at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Conference and Expo at booth #1803 this week, so if you’re there, come say hello. Why? Three reasons:

1. You can try out products for yourself because we’ll have an array of Sprogs furniture and Primary Colors art supplies on site.

2. There will be a photo booth so you can remember the awesome time you’re having.

3. You can actually WIN the products at our booth. That’s right, a bevy of brand new early learning childhood furniture for your classroom. Just stop by and write down your testimonial about why you deserve to win.

School Outfitters at NAEYC

The School Outfitters booth at NAEYC.

Here’s a sampling of what you could win:

Sprogs Butterfly Buddy Climber

Sprogs Butterfly Buddy Climber

Norwood Commercial Furniture Rectangle Adjustable-Height Activity Table

Norwood Commercial Furniture Rectangle Adjustable-Height Activity Table

Sprogs 100 Series Preschool Chair with Chrome Legs

Sprogs 100 Series Preschool Chair with Chrome Legs

Norwood Commercial Furniture Children's Waiting Room Soft Seating

Norwood Commercial Furniture Children’s Waiting Room Soft Seating

Sprogs 15-Tray Three-Section Storage Unit

Sprogs 15-Tray Three-Section Storage Unit

Plus much more. We’ll see you in Dallas – be sure to visit booth #1803.

Celebrate Ruby Bridges with your Students Sun, 02 Nov 2014 16:47:51 +0000 Ask your students to name their heroes. Replies will certainly vary, but a few responses will pop up over and over again – Batman, a parent, a fireman or their favorite professional athlete. Depending on the grade level you teach, a handful of kids may mention historical figures like Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. These historic leaders are frequently celebrated in public school classrooms, but does it ever seem like your students have trouble relating to these impressive grown-ups and their big accomplishments?

A true hero to whom your students can certainly relate is Ruby Bridges, the African-American first grader who pioneered school integration at an all-white New Orleans school. Ruby’s first day at William Frantz Elementary School was November 14th, 1960, and the events of that day were not only historic, but truly dramatic. Ruby’s arrival at her new school was covered by national news media. She walked through crowds of angry protesters, and entered a building where she was considered an outsider. She spent the entire school year isolated from her peers, working one-on-one with a teacher specially assigned to her. She persevered and ultimately broke down barriers that had been in place for decades. Let’s not forget, she was just six years old.

Ruby Bridges


Bringing Ruby’s story into your classroom not only offers a great opportunity to explore a variety of powerful historical lessons, but also the chance to inspire students through Ruby’s inner strength and admirable character traits. Below is a list of great resources you can mix and match to create a memorable lesson for your students. Perhaps Ruby’s name will be added your students’ lists of heroes.

Teaching Ruby Bridges:
Scholastic offers excellent resources and activities to bring the Ruby Bridges story to life for your students.

The Story of Ruby Bridges, a book by Robert Coles, is a great option to start a group discussion on empathy or civics.

Learn more about Ruby’s teacher, Barbara Henry, who stood by Ruby’s side throughout her tumultuous first year at William Frantz Elementary.

If you have ESL students in your class, be sure to check out these Ruby Bridges activity worksheets designed just for them.

Disney made a film of Ruby’s story in 1998, and many teachers have given it high marks. Ruby Bridges is available to buy or stream from Amazon.

Let your students know what Ruby is up to today. She is still an advocate for equal education, and inspiring everyone from students like yours to the President of the United States – a 1964 Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby was moved to the White House in 2011.

Let us know in the comments if you plan to introduce your students to Ruby on November 14th, the anniversary of her first day of school as a hero.

School Segregation: The New Reality Fri, 25 Apr 2014 15:21:42 +0000 Credit: Maisie Crow for The Atlantic

Credit: Maisie Crow for The Atlantic

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, school segregation is the worst it’s been since the 1950s and it’s because of money. Though the separation present today is a far cry from the days of Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” schools, the ratio of black to white students has been steadily getting worse. How could this be? We all know that the American educational experience in the mid-20th century was a tumultuous and frightening time for many. Yet, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent decades of legislation forcing schools to integrate, these issues should have mostly been eliminated, at least in the eyes of the law. Schools have become fully integrated with white, black and Latino students, among others, and all facilities are open to everyone, regardless of race or creed. Except, maybe they’re not.

All public schools were once segregated by race in the United States. These practices were outlawed by 1969, but it wasn’t until 1979 that enforceable desegregation laws were passed in Tuscaloosa, requiring the city’s largest high schools to merge and become Central High School. For decades afterwards, Central High became one of the most impressive integrated schools in the country, winning state sports titles, naming dozens of National Merit Scholars and achieving a dropout rate of less than half of Alabama’s average.

However, in recent years, pressure from parents’ groups and school councils was put on courts to overturn enforced integration laws. Over the years, middle-class white families had gradually pulled kids out of city schools, choosing to send them to mostly white county or private schools instead. This slow exodus of the wealthier white students led to an erosion of the tax base, causing a financial crisis for the school district. In short, the city’s leaders decided more flexibility was needed to create smaller neighborhood schools in hopes of luring those students back, which led to the end of laws requiring integration, the beginning of school district gerrymandering and the dismantling of Central High School 21 years after its creation.

The full story of Tuscaloosa’s integration problem is a fascinating read, and I recommend you take a look at the whole, complicated ordeal to get an idea of the history involved. Where in the past, separating black and white students was done on explicitly racial bias, now the division is based on the line between rich and poor, with identical end results. As the article points out, “Black children in the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades.” As a nation, we may believe we’re past dealing with these issues of race and money, but in communities across the country, they remain as difficult as ever.

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Preparing for the Unthinkable Thu, 28 Nov 2013 11:25:24 +0000 Schools should be safe places. Institutions devoted to the education of children should never have to think about, or prepare for, a possible school shooting, stabbing or other violent action. Sadly, it happens, seemingly more often than ever. Making sense of a tragedy like the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, an event that defies reason and explanation, is impossible. However, teachers have had to face the hard truth that schools can be targets of violence, and have started taking steps to prepare themselves in case they come under fire.

How do we really prevent school shootings? This question has flummoxed everyone, from parents to educators to law enforcement, for decades. Some have suggested arming the teachers themselves, a controversial idea that has nevertheless been adopted by at least seven states. Other school officials think that armed guards would be helpful, including almost 90% of teachers polled in this CNN survey. While these various armed responses are options for many schools, teachers have also looked for other (unarmed) ways to prepare, leading a group in Florida to start taking shooter self-defense training.


The training course offers instruction on how to escape and take cover, but also ways to disable the shooter and fight back if attacked. Most importantly, educators learn strategies for when to run, hide or fight. When faced with a life-or-death situation, the natural response is often panic; what the teachers taking this class hope is that with the right training, they can at least stay calm and make life-saving decisions in a crisis.

In an ideal world, no one would have to fear for the lives of their children, especially at a school. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While efforts are constantly being put forth to prevent shootings from occurring, including bullying prevention and counseling for troubled kids, bad things can still happen. What steps has your district taken to keep your students safe?

How much? Teachers’ Out-of-Pocket Woes Fri, 15 Nov 2013 22:04:04 +0000 Educators spend their salary at work. This isn’t breaking news. When teachers need extra arts and crafts basics like crayons, they reach into their own pockets. Yes, teachers need change, of both the jingly jangly, coin-shaped kind and the financial reform, debate-filled sort. It’s an unknown cost at the start of every school year. “What materials or teaching aids could benefit my students?” “How do I make this fun project a reality?” “What everyday supplies will run low?” “How much will this all cost?”

From the supplies necessary for daily activities to the additional materials needed for above-and-beyond learning opportunities, educators, both in public and private schools, lack the funds to support their classroom work. On average, teachers spend $485 of their own money for class, according to the National School Supply and Equipment Association. Of course, that’s just the average; many teachers reported spending thousands on items they felt their students needed. The reason? Teachers get supplies quicker this way; bypassing funding requests hurts the wallet, but it gets immediate results. Also, students, especially the early learners, often love supplies like motivational stickers, markers, paint and paper that must be replaced. It’s hard for teachers to let their students go a day without the extra learning and smiles that these items deliver.

Teachers Spend Hundreds of Own Funds to Keep Up With Classroom Needs
Credit: ginatomko.

Teachers spent $1.6 billion for the 2012-2013 school year, according to NSSEA. So, ask your teachers what they need. They’ll be happy to make you a wish list. Then, reach out to your local school’s administration and share these shortcomings. Write letters, donate, organize a fundraiser and support the students in your community.

It’s worth noting here that I dedicated an August post to celebrating our newest assortment of pre-K products. There’s an ever-growing selection of items, and they’re priced to save money for both classroom-based and at-home educators. School Outfitters is the exclusive home to Primary Colors, a product line that  includes  finger paint, glitter glue and clay, and boasts free shipping.

What has your community or school done to help teachers with growing out-of-pocket expenses?

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Is The SAT Writing Section Helping Anyone? Fri, 08 Nov 2013 19:16:57 +0000 Ask any high school student preparing for college about their biggest stresses, and the SAT will surely be mentioned. Generally accepted as one of the most important stepping stones on the path to college, the SAT has for years been the starting point for the evaluations of all college admissions officers. Well, brace yourselves for some bad news: the SAT’s writing section only measures the ability to make things up on the fly and has very little in common with the sort of writing skills students need to be successful in college.

Now, some of you may say, “Isn’t making stuff up the whole basis of writing something?” Well, yes and no; it really depends on what type of writing you’re doing. For example, writing poetry or fiction stems directly from a person’s imagination, so from that point of view, “making stuff up” really is all you need. However, the type of writing the SAT focuses on is evidence-based, where a student receives a prompt and must make a point and offer evidence to back up their stance. This is a common type of writing found in both high-school and college classrooms, and students usually respond with the standard five-paragraph essay.

This is where the problem rears its head: given 25 minutes to write a coherent essay, it’s my opinion that students will simply jot down as many big words and made-up facts that they can think of, in hopes of filling the page with something legible that reads like a smart essay. These tests are scored by real people, but the graders are so pressed for time that students know length, bigger words and even quotations can net them a higher score based on the quick glance their essay will get. Again, as Slate points out, the test is not an accurate gauge of a college-level writing skills, and “for those trained in the five-paragraph, non-fact-based writing style that is rewarded on the SAT, shifting gears can be extremely challenging” once they reach a professor’s classroom.

Thinking on your feet and being able to improvise is definitely valuable as a life skill, but what these students will realize, once they make it to a college class, is that last-minute writing with imaginary facts will get them nowhere fast. It’s time for the SAT to revamp the writing section so it can accurately measure a student’s writing ability and provide meaningful admissions information for colleges.

Malala Yousafzai’s International Fight for Education Equality Wed, 30 Oct 2013 21:29:12 +0000

Malala Yousafzai

You’ve probably heard by now of Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani who survived a gunshot to the head in the name of education equality. As jihadists took over her region and began prohibiting women from receiving an education, Yousafzai – at age 12 – spoke out against the blatant injustices imposed on her and those around her. While her thoughts were originally expressed anonymously, her name was eventually made public and, consequently, she was attacked one day while riding the bus. After being flown to the UK for treatment, Yousafzai made an incredible recovery and has since been traveling the globe to advocate for equal rights education. Recently, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, which would have made her the youngest laureate ever.

While not ultimately awarded the prize, Yousafzai and her story continue to offer inspiration and hope for people across the globe. Her memoir, I Am Malala, has just been published, and Yousafzai has been persistent in promoting its message of fighting injustice through education. (Watch her poignant interview on The Daily Show here.)

In the United States, where (equal) education is a federal mandate, it’s nearly impossible to imagine schools being destroyed and children being told they are simply not allowed to learn – or, more grimly, literally being shot for trying. It’s probably safe to say that, at times, we even take it for granted. Learning Malala Yousafzai’s story can be a powerful way to talk to students about the importance of education. Have you shared it with your class? If so, how did you approach it, and how was it received? Please discuss in the comments below.

Teens’ Surprising, Self-Aware Internet Savvy Thu, 17 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000


In her article, “What Inner City Kids Know About Social Media, and Why We Should Listen,” Jacqui Cheng sheds bright light on the intersection of teens, social media and who their adult audiences are (or should be). I urge you to read the piece in its entirety, but the crux of it is this: Teenagers are acutely aware of what they’re posting and exactly who can see it.

The common belief that adolescents post incriminating or “depressing” personal content for all to see because they don’t take control of their privacy settings is simply not true. In a world where one-year-olds mistake magazines for iPads, surely we knew better. What teens are doing is reaching out. We’ve heard it all before; the more “connected” we become via social media and our various devices, the less connected we actually feel. (For the most recent, popular explanation of this, take a look at comedian Louis C.K.’s reasoning for not buying his kids smartphones. Warning: contains adult content.)

Why is this being posted on a blog for schools, teachers and educators? The article’s suggestion is: When teens post about the argument they had with their mom or how hard they partied, perhaps they’re not just “being a teenager” or puffing their feathers; they may be hoping that someone recognizes their veiled requests for connection, meaningful relationships or help. And oftentimes, the people who spend the most time with these students – their teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. – are not allowed to see these acts of outreach. So, should teachers be allowed to have an online presence? Wouldn’t knowing what a student is dealing with outside of school have a beneficial effect on the job teachers can do in school?

Are You Cut Out to Teach Online? Wed, 09 Oct 2013 13:30:52 +0000 Many K-12 students (particularly high schoolers) now experience formal education exclusively in the form of online classes. For others, completing a few online classes before their traditional high school graduation is a requirement. Not surprisingly, controversy surrounds the topic of online learning’s effectiveness. But ready or not, here it comes. As more states and districts make the big jump into online education, many teachers are going along for the ride.

Even if you’re a seasoned educator, teaching online can present an entirely new set of challenges and rewards. If you are considering jumping into the online teaching ring, preparation will be key. Below are some links to sites that offer solid advice about strategies for teaching successfully online.

­– Writing at The Journal, veteran online instructor Richard Rose offers words of wisdom to his college students, many of whom hope to become online K-12 teachers.

Edutopia offers information on becoming a high-quality online instructor, as well as sample lesson plans from real K-12 online courses.

— Any classroom teacher can tell you that they wear many hats throughout the day. The same is true of online teachers. Faculty Focus discusses the roles specific to online educators. Although this piece is written with a bend towards higher ed, the concepts translate well for education at any level.

— Watch A Day in the Life of a great online teacher, Kristin Kipp. She was the National Online Teacher of the Year in 2010.

If you have experience as an online instructor, please share your tips and insights in the comments section below.

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