Photo courtesy of Bob Wall

Photo courtesy of Bob Wall

While families are actively purchasing supplies for their children, educators are also spending the last days of summer preparing lessons and replenishing materials. RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) expects its largest crowds of the year for its annual Back to School Event in San Jose this Friday and Saturday.

Throughout RAFT’s 20-year history, the nonprofit has equipped thousands of educators with creative materials and affordable tools to set up their classrooms and to make education more engaging and effective for an entire generation of students. The RAFT Back to School Event has become so popular in the education community that it has been called “Black Friday for Teachers.” Crowds will line up each morning to access a breadth of unique supplies such as hands-on learning tools, furniture, computer monitors, and creative reuse materials, available at low prices thanks to the contributions of donors and efforts of volunteers. Teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on teaching materials every year, making the availability of affordable and free resources especially important.

“RAFT is proud to celebrate and support the invaluable work our educators do,” said Grainger Marburg, chief executive officer of RAFT. “Now more than ever, engaging learning resources are a growing necessity for educators inside and outside the classroom for building and assessing the critical skills students need for their future success and ours.”

The organization’s professional development staff will demonstrate new hands-on activities which enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education while instilling key 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are central to the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, but are also important for preparing the nation’s future workforce. The new Activity Kits Brace Yourself, which allows students to simulate the impact of an earthquake, and Laundry Math, a counting activity for young children, are just two of the nearly 100 hands-on learning activities RAFT has developed to help educators teach complex concepts, while also saving them time and money.

“RAFT Activity Kits are just what the kids need to bring a concept to life,” said Julie DiMaio, primary school teacher and Cub Scout leader. “They allow me to engage an entire classroom at a fraction of the cost of creating the projects myself. I’m able to use limited budgets to quickly obtain extremely helpful teaching tools.”

RAFT is membership-based organization open to educators of all types, including classroom teachers, after school providers, homeschool educators, and Scout leaders. Educators interested in joining or attending the event should visit for more information on hours and the location, as well as becoming a member. The RAFT website also has a variety of free online resources, including more than 700 Idea Sheets aligned with national curriculum standards and Scout badges, a valuable resource for educators around the country.

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