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What I Can’t Teach Without: Kelly Vaughan, middle school science

Welcome to What I Can’t Teach Without, where we’re revealing what real-life educators pack in their proverbial tote bags. We’re asking teachers what materials and ideas help them serve their students best.

Kelly Vaughan is a middle-school science teacher in Brooklyn, and will be a founding teacher at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School’s new Clinton Hill location this fall. (If you’re a longtime Chalkbeat reader, you might recognize her byline.)

To do my job best, I can’t teach without …


1. A really good nearby dollar store, hardware store, craft supply store, pet supply store, or grocery store for last-minute science experiment supplies.

Amazon Prime helps a lot if you’re just ordering gallons and gallons of vinegar, but sometimes you have to look at things in real life to decide what will work.

2. Very patient custodians …

… Who don’t freak out when another beaker breaks or when a group’s chemistry experiment making “bath balls” results in yellow dye all over the floor.

3. A classroom supply stash.

I’m not obsessed with any particular office supplies, but I do buy my own supply of rulers, bottles of glue (some prefer glue sticks but I find they always dry out), boxes of markers, staplers, and individual rolls of clear tape (at least 10 with refills!). That way, anything we do that’s hands-on doesn’t get held up by having to pass a stapler around the whole classroom, for example.

4. Plenty of scissors.

You’d be surprised how long it can take a 12-year-old to cut something out, so I always have plenty of scissors or the whole class period will be spent cutting. For what it’s worth, I try not to do cutting or taping for kids. I suspect that not having those opportunities is why so many of them still struggle with fine motor skills even in middle school.

5. The internet.

Honestly, I don’t know how people planned without being able to read over a bunch of different lesson ideas and relevant articles before putting together their own plans.