Schoola Blog

School Fundraising Tips & Success Stories from Schoola

Month: August 2015

Teach Your Kids How to Pack Their Own Lunch


Guest post by Sandra Ann Harris, Founder of ECOlunchbox

When my daughter was seven, I’d start each day optimistically packing her lunch with love and homemade nutrition. And then my bubble would burst when lunch returned home in a jumble with just a few nibbles eaten. Thus began the “lunch wars” for the next few years, with me insisting she eat her lunch, reminding her that she needed energy to sustain her for the long school day, cajoling her for wasting food, etc. Sound familiar?


Then I got this brilliant idea to quit packing lunches and get out of the lunch business entirely. That would go for my son, three years older, too. So I threw in my lunch-making apron, feeling a little guilty about it at the time since all the other moms seemed to be doing fine with pleasing their little munchkins at lunchtime. But the tug-of-war over lunch at our house was officially over.


I suddenly had time in the morning to shower and do my makeup and actually put on real clothes (instead of just sweatpants) and there was a lot less yelling during the morning routine–and when the kids came home. How did I do it? I taught the kids to pack their own lunches.

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  1. CUT THE CORD: Explain that you’re not going to make lunch anymore and that lunchtime is a great opportunity to learn about nutrition, organization and taking control of what goes into our bodies. Packing a healthy lunch is important to feeling good and thinking effectively during school, so explain to your children that you’re going to train them to pack their own lunches.
  2. WHAT’S IN THE BAG: Teach kids to pack an entrée (something with a protein, like nut butter, tofu, cheese or leftover meat) and two side dishes, including at least one fruit or a vegetable. A stainless steel water bottle is the other must-have. We always pack in reusable lunchware and avoid pre-packaged foods for health and environmental reasons.
  3. ACCESS: Move the lunchboxes and the lunch pantry down low where your kids can easily see and reach everything they need.
  4. MAKE A LIST: Have the kids review the lunch pantry and then create a wish list of things they want from the supermarket. 
  5. GO SHOPTake your kids shopping with their list. As you make your purchases, discuss good choices and bad choices.
  6. MIX THINGS UP: Be flexible about their choices. Variety makes things interesting. If your child loves edamame or seaweed snacks, like my daughter does, make them available as your budget allows. I like to make homemade banana muffins and other baked goods for them to pack and go; leftovers are good, healthy options, too.
  7. LEAVE THE KITCHEN: If the kids are old enough to safely prepare their lunches themselves, get out of their way. If not, lurk around, but busy yourself with other tasks while they pack their lunches and help as needed. Make sure they do the bulk of the work.
  8. REINFORCE THEIR CHOICES: Don’t complain about their choices so long as their lunch includes at least one entrée, two sides and a water bottle.
  9. IGNORE WHINING: Expect that at first it will be a chore for the kids to learn lunch-making skills and they might complain. Just ignore it.
  10. SMILE: Celebrate the end of lunch wars in your home–and notice that much less food comes home uneaten to be dumped in the garbage can.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 12.31.37 PMCalifornia eco-mom Sandra Ann Harris founded ECOlunchbox  to empower families with non-toxic lunchtime tools to help them learn to reduce their dependence on plastics. Scientists are learning more every day about the health and environmental hazards of toxins in plastics.

Jumping Back Into School: 10 Tips to Ease the Transition

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Our community shares their #BackToSchoola dreams including bloggers Skunkboy and This Charming Life by Kaelah Bee.

We’ve had so much fun seeing you share your #BackToSchoola photos on social media, and if you’re anything like us, you’re still easing back into the school year. Here are 10 tips for making the back-to-school transition easier for your whole family.

  1. Create a handy whiteboard calendar in a central area like your kitchen where your family can reference their schedules. Have outfits picked out the night before so your kiddos are all ready to go in the morning–no last minute arguments about what to wear. Just like us, some kids are not morning people, so you can even dress them while they’re half asleep. It’s a great way to ease them awake.
  2. Get them involved in making their lunch so it’s something they’ll actually eat. While you’re making the main part of their meal, have them choose a side like an apple or carrots, or pick their drink.
  3. This sounds obvious, but you won’t be there to help them eat their lunch. Make sure your child knows how to open ziplock bags and lunch containers, and can put a straw in a juice box (that last one can even be tricky for grownups). You’ll also want them to know how to close containers, so you don’t end up with messy lunch bags at the end of the day.
  4. The first day of school isn’t the only photo op: bring your camera for the first week or two and capture moments with your child’s new classmates. This is super helpful when your child lets you know they have a new friend, or tells you a story about something that happened at school. They can point out their classmates in the pictures. Plus it’s an easy way to create a memory book at the end of the school year.
  5. When you’re dropping your child off, it’s easy to forget to have a plan for where you’ll pick them up. Make sure the game plan after school is just as clear as the drop-off plan.
  6. There are so many possible scenarios for new experiences when sending your child off to school, so play the “what if” game. “What if I’m late picking you up?” “What if you forget your homework?” You can mix in silly “what ifs” so your child doesn’t feel like he or she is being grilled with intimidating questions, and to make it fun.
  7. Plan a nice treat after school–establishing an after-school tradition will give your children something to look forward to after a long day of class.
  8. Sometimes when you ask, “How was your day?” you get no response. Asking specific questions will lead to more detailed responses. Try specific questions like: “Who did you sit with at lunch?” “Who did you play with at recess?” “What did the teacher say about XX?” “What did other kids bring for lunch?” (which will help you get ideas for what to pack).
  9. The first few weeks of school can be totally exhausting. Don’t be surprised if your kiddo hits the hay as early as 6 pm. He or she might be more emotional than usual as well. And don’t be hard on yourselves if the transition takes a few months.
  10. Most importantly, school should be fun, so don’t let the stress get you down. Make homework time a fun, family affair rather than a chore.

What are your tips for adjusting to the new school year? We want to hear from you. Comment below to share your words of wisdom.

Let’s Play Ball: Why Sports Matter in Chicago


By Stacey Boyd, Founder & CEO of Schoola

The $200M in budget cuts announced in July by Chicago Public Schools puts elementary school sports teams and the 5,300 coaches who lead them on the chopping block. “Extras” like music and art and sports always seem to be the first to go when budgets are cut, not just in Chicago but all across the U.S. However, what if I told you that by cutting daily exercise for kids will decrease the amount a child learns by half. And that actual proof of that is under an hour’s drive away from Chicago.

The Naperville School District of 19,000 kids experimented with the mandatory mile run at the start of the day for students needing help in math and literacy. They then organized kids’ schedules so that the subjects they struggled with the most followed directly after their morning runs. This is akin to kids doing homework after a couple of hours of running and exercising hard on after school teams, the very programs Chicago Public Schools is now cutting. Children who get aerobic exercise transform their brains due to a protein that is elevated during exercise acting as a sort of “miracle-gro” according to John Ratey, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School.  In other words, exercise matters deeply for cognitive development for kids. The Naperville results demonstrate why.  

Kids that ran the zero-mile and participated in Naperville’s PE program not only outperformed neighboring districts, such as Chicago Public Schools and the North Shore consortium (including kids from New Trier), but whole countries. In fact, the eighth grade Naperville students that took an international science test finished first in the world, ahead of Singapore. As a comparison, U.S. students typically rank 18th in the world. Naperville credits much of their academic results to their fitness-based physical education program.

They are not alone. The California Department of Education likewise conducted a study of 279,000 children that confirmed that fit children scored twice as well as their unfit peers. What is particularly compelling is that data crosses socioeconomic lines.  A later study showed that the more fit lower-income students are, the better they do academically as well. Exercise helps break the cycle of poverty.  

Which makes the decision to cut elementary school after school sports that much more heartbreaking.  Assuming these cuts come to pass, we need to find ways to ensure our kids stay healthy and active. Parents need to organize zero hour runs before school. Teachers need to find a way for kids to jump rope in the hallways in between classes and during recess. Money needs to be garnered to buy that equipment and re-hire coaches. While $3.2M is not a drop in the bucket, that represents just a little over $7,200 per elementary school. Parents bringing in outgrown items of clothing (to Schoola) or printer cartridges and old cell phones (to the Funding Factory) or books (to Better World Books) could easily raise $7,200 per school, simply by emptying overstuffed closets and clearing out basements.  

The issue of budget cuts isn’t confined to Chicago. I saw it firsthand when I was a teacher and principal in Boston. I see it in schools all across the Bay Area where I now live and work. And I hear about it daily from the more than 13,000 schools nationwide we work to support. But the impact on Chicago kids is very real.  Kids don’t get a second pass at their elementary school years. As Chicago Public Schools sorts through ways to fund schools adequately, parents can and should step up to the plate. That way our kids can still play ball and learn more while they are at it.

#greenbacktoschool with Ecolunchbox, Paper Culture and Schoola

Sharpen those pencils, parents! Back-to-school is either already here for you or just around the corner, and it’s time to starting ticking to-dos off your list. But don’t go stocking up on off-the-rack clothes, plastic baggies, and non-recycled paper just yet! There’s a better set of solutions thanks to sustainably minded companies like ECOlunchbox and Paper Culture . We here at Schoola have teamed up with our friends to help you get back-to-school in an eco-conscious way.

Not only are these sites innovative and wallet-friendly, they help you eschew the waste-making, $75 billion dollar back-to-school industry that reigns over the US like a grumpy toddler. Boasting darling duds, creative, durable supplies, and more, these alternative shopping options make back-to-school shopping a complete win. Embracing the three r’s of green living—reduce, reuse, and recycle—these sites will help you keep the planet, and your pockets, filled with green.

Reduce: Say Bye-Bye to the Brown Bag with Ecolunchbox


It’s incredible, but true: 100 million pieces of lunchtime trash are thrown away every hour. And one of the worst culprits in this crime? School-time lunch waste.

Though every small paper bag and ziploc you use may not seem like such a big deal, don’t be fooled. Over time, these items add up to mountains of trash—4.6 billion tons in the US alone—that could make even Everest seem small. In fact, lunchtime trash And worse, plastics are full of chemicals that are anything but healthy.

Happily, you can kick this toxic, trash-making mess out of your life with smartly designed items like those crafted by ECOlunchbox. Non-toxic, durable, and charming, ECOlunchbox’s stainless steel containers and artisan-crafted bags will make your kid’s lunchtime waste- and worry-free.

The impact products like ECOlunchbox’s make is not to be underestimated. By helping parents switch to smarter lunch-packing options, ECOlunchbox annually prevents 8 million pounds of trash from hitting landfills and offsets the CO2 equivalent of driving 5.4 million miles. And speaking of waste, the average family spends $450 a year on throwaways like disposable baggies, so when you snag yourself a reusable lunch bag or box, you’ll have some extra cash for those little luxuries parents need—like date nights and dinners out.

Reuse: Cute Clothes Meet a Good Cause with Schoola 

Schoola SF ProjectsNow that you know how to make lunchtime green and great, let’s look another blindingly wasteful slice of back-to-school shopping—the wardrobe.

The amount of pollutants produced by the fashion industry is incredible. Yet, kids constantly need new clothes. Not only do studies show kids lose 80% of new school supplies throughout the year, they grow like beanstalks. Children ages 2-10 grow 2 ½ inches and 6 pounds a year, and after puberty, these rates more than double. This means you need to get new clothes for your kids practically non-stop.

Instead of turning to off-the-rack garments from your local box store, opt for a more environmentally and financially sustainable option like Schoola. Full of carefully curated, preloved fashion for kids and women, Schoola helps you get adorable new clothes without buying into the polluting fast fashion industry. And as a cherry on top, Schoola also donates a large portion of their proceeds to your kids’ schools.

On average, parents spend $670 on their K-12 graders each year. When these dollars are spent at Schoola, over $240 per parent goes towards art lessons, music classes, PE, or other at-risk programs in over 12,000 donor schools nationwide. Plus, when you donate clothes to Schoola you don’t just help your school, you help the planet. For each bag of clothes send to Schoola, you offset up to 6,500 gallons of water and 22.27 kg of C02. When it comes to looking good on the outside and feeling even better on the inside, Schoola can’t be beat.

Recycle: Products that Are Pretty Inside and Out with Paper Culture

58fb753328242b28f89f8ffb928b3575Deforestation causes a staggering 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Mind boggling, isn’t it? Combine that with the fact that, over time, humans have destroyed 75% of the world’s forests, and any smart cookie such as yourself will understand that we can’t just sit back and let this continue to happen.

Inventive companies like Paper Culture want to help you combat the effects of deforestation without compromising on your need for quality school supplies. Offering a wide range of necessary and useful items ranging from kid-friendly notecards perfect for writing welcome notes to teachers, to fun wall decals greats for kids heading off to college, to well-designed labels for all your organizational needs, Paper Culture’s products are both creative and eco-conscious. Not only does the company use 100% recycled materials for products like those mentioned , they plant a tree with every order. And, as you can see here, the power of one tree is pretty darn potent.

By helping to reduce greenhouse gases and deforestation with the wisely crafted (and superbly cute!) products, you’ll be able to send your kids to school with a clean conscious.

Earn Top Marks in Environmental Excellence

With shopping options like those listed above, you’ll excellently execute upon back-to-school errands without even having to leave your house. By switching headache-filled trips to the store with simple at home task-tackling, and opting for ethical, economical consumerism instead of buying quick-to-break, full-of-waste products, you’ll make a better world for yourself, your kids, and the future that awaits your bright young minds.

Plus for a limited time, don’t forget to enter our #greenbacktoschool giveaway where you can win one of 12  – $50 credits for SchoolaECOlunchbox and Paper Culture. Enter here.

Donate and Support Education

Fill a box from home with quality clothing, shoes, and purses for the whole family. We accept new and gently worn clothes that originally retailed for $30 or more. Print a shipping label and then just leave your donation box for the mail carrier. We’ll sort and sell your items, and 40% of the sales proceeds (minus the cost of inbound shipping) will go to a school or one of our partner causes of your choice.

Parents love it because they can donate gently used kids’ and women’s clothing by mail from home throughout the year, which allows them to clean out their closet for the benefit of their school. Earn funds for your school simply by cleaning out your closet.

To date, we have worked with over 30,000 schools to raise much needed funds for arts, music, athletics, science and other programs that might otherwise be cut from those schools. Thanks to donations from parents like you, children across the country are swinging on new playgrounds, using new iPads in school and traveling for sports and arts events.

Due to this incredible response, we have accumulated a large backlog of clothes in our warehouse and will not be scheduling any school-wide drives through the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Instead, we will be focusing on processing and selling the clothes that communities like yours have already sent in.

Learn more about how to donate at Questions? Contact us at or at (855) 454-2956.

Growing a Business is All About Building a Stellar Team


In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of growth at Schoola as we’ve strived to reach our goals to put paintbrushes, violins, basketballs and more into the hands of school-age children. Much of the success is due to the team, although it’s not always easy making a bet on a new employee. We’ve leaned on the employee-vetting program RIVS to help us hire the right people for the right roles.

In a recent Huffington Post interview, our founder and CEO Stacey Boyd said, “Team matters more than anything, but you need to hire not just for smarts but for big hearts. We have a terrific team at Schoola that can solve almost any problem sent their way. They are tenacious, smart, creative and dynamic. They are also good, kind-hearted people. A company or organization with smart, creative, driven and big-hearted people—in combination with a compelling mission—will go far.”

Currently we’re hiring coaches, AKA fundraising gurus, who will help book and run clothing drives to fundraise for schools. This takes a unique kind of people-person who’s very detail oriented, and also has a true passion for improving children’s education. We’re looking for superstars, with just a few spots left to fill. For interested applicants, the job listing can be found here on RIVS.

Why RIVS? It helps us find rockstars in a time-efficient manner with the use of recorded audio and video submissions. This is particularly useful for remote hires who can’t interview face-to-face. RIVS is a digital interviewing platform that connects employers to quality candidates through video, voice and written interviews. Digital interviews reveal key candidate communication and personality skills earlier on in the selection process, helping us discover top talent while reducing time to hire and costs associated with interviewing.

We can’t wait to hear from you—apply for our coach position here.

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