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Ethical Prizes for the Classroom

A wonderful teacher we have worked with in the past got in touch with us with a very interesting question. She wanted to know if we had any suggestions for humane prizes to give to students in the classroom.
She is not alone. When students do great things, many teachers want to acknowledge those stellar skills and give them a reward, many times purchased using cash from the teacher’s own wallet. That means the prize has to be inexpensive and kid friendly. Keeping those criteria in mind, but wanting to also think about items that are humane (eco, animal and human-friendly), we put together a list of fabulous items teachers can give to kids in the classroom. They won’t break the bank and they will help make our planet a safe space for everyone.
1. Recycled Pens or Pencils
These are a nice option because you can buy them in bulk and there are a large variety of options out there like pencils made from newspapers and pens made from recycled plastic.
2. Thrift Store Toys
Thrift stores are fantastic places to find the kinds of little toys and trinkets that are perfect to give as rewards. Head over to the children’s section and see what’s fresh. These items are used (and therefore eco-friendly) and tend to be very inexpensive, sometimes even cheaper than a dollar store.
3. Garage Sale Finds
Children grow up fast. So fast that they only use their toys for short bursts of time before moving on to the next one. As a result, parents are constantly unloading perfectly lovely kids toys at garage sales. Load up in the summer when there are garage sales every weekend and give them out from September through June.
4. Used Humane Books
We all want to inspire kids to read. Thankfully, there is no shortage of used books on the market. The “used” quality makes it a humane choice, but you can go even further. Choose a book with a humane theme like The Lorax or Buddy Unchained. Head to a used bookstore, look online, or for really good deals, see if your library does an annual used book sale. Garage sales and thrift stores sometimes carry books as well.
5. Recycled Notebooks
These tend to get a bit pricier per child, but if you just need a few of something, a recycled notebook can be a great option to teach kids that anything and everything, even their school supplies, can be eco-friendly.
6. Fair Trade Organic Chocolate
We know that sweets do tend to be a popular choice in the classroom. Due to health concerns and to keep things ethical, consider a bar of fair trade organic chocolate. Rather than awarding one kid the entire bar, break off a section for each child to enjoy. This way you are giving out smaller portions (less sugar) and one bar can be used as a prize for a bunch of kids.
Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? We would love to hear them. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Ethical Prizes for the Classroom”

  1. Children love photos of themselves and especially love photos that they can share with family members to show what they have done. Shutterfly and other sites often have “get 100 free photos” so you can get copies very inexpensively. Pick up frames at yard sales and wrap the photo and frame in brown paper covered in “great job” or “superhero” words.

  2. Thank you for this list. Origami is a popular choice in my room. Some kids have difficulty with the folds, but still want the end product. I’m also looking into recycling paper with a paper making kit. The kids who are able to fold may enjoy it.

  3. At one school apples, bananas or cheese and crackers packs or little packs of nuts were coveted prizes. These may be a little more expensive, but when I taught in the inner city, we knew many of our kids didn’t eat enough due to lack of food at home. We knew hunger was a distraction from learning and were happy when they won and we had to give out a food prize. The more the better!

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