Classroom Solutions > Nancy Barile > Shake the Money Tree!

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Shake the Money Tree!

Nancyb_shake School's about to start, and I bet you're wishing you had a few more items and supplies for your classroom. In these tough economic times, teachers need to be as resourceful as possible to get materials and create fun learning experiences for their students. I'm going to show you how easy it is to SHAKE THE MONEY TREE, and get what you need to start the year out right.

First off, if you don't know about it already, DonorsChoose is a teacher's best friend. Over the past three years, I've probably received close to $15,000 worth of school supplies from Donors, including books, DVDs, projectors, twelve netbooks, a full-sized air hockey table, a ping-pong table, and a visit from All Souls author Michael Patrick MacDonald. The process is surprisingly easy — anyone can do it, and it takes a minimal amount of time. The results are amazing. Just create an account and go shopping! The site has everything you need to know to be successful.


I work in an urban school district, and I like to find ways to help my students get the cultural capital that they may be missing. I love to provide them with opportunities to attend cultural events in our city. The students enjoy dressing up for a Friday night out in Boston! Many times all you have to do is email or call a production company to get free tickets for a play, ballet, opera, or other musical event. Out-of-town production companies want to make sure every seat is filled on opening night, and sometimes they will give away free tickets in order to fill the house. One of our most generous benefactors is the lovely Jenny Kelly of Jenny Kelly Productions. Jenny is located in Maryland, and she books both opera and ballet. In the past three years, she has given me over 100 tickets for each of her productions that play in Boston. As a result of her kindness, she has made opera lovers out of my high schoolers, who have now seenAida, La Traviata, La Bohème, and The Barber of Seville, to name a few, as well as the Moiseev Russian Classical Ballet production of Swan Lake. I am eternally grateful to Jenny for the amazing experiences she has provided for my students, who often bring their parents and families to these events.  


And our friendship began with an email I sent to her when I saw an ad in the Boston Globe for one of her productions.

When I told the American Repertory Theater that budget cuts eliminated bus transportation to their plays, they brought their entire innovative production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale to the chorus room at our high school! My students felt like they were part of this traditional-theater-meets-beach-blanket-bingo performance.

One Day University was another experience that I found through an ad in the paper. ODU finds the best professors from the world's top schools — Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Brown, and many others — to present on a variety of topics. A call to owner Steve Schragis yielded us about fifteen free tickets (valued at about $259 each!) every time ODU was in town at a local college campus. Not only did my students get to experience a day on a college campus, but they were also introduced to high-level professors who spoke on topics ranging from global warming to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to learning to love classical music. Many of my students wrote their college essays about their ODU experience. While ODU's format has changed recently, I will be eternally grateful to them for the once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into college life they provided for my students.

Some professors will actually hold a class for your students if you ask. My Mysteries students were always fascinated with Professor of Sociology and Criminology Jack Levin, who lectures on violence, prejudice, and crime. I sent an email to Dr. Levin (fully aware that he can command thousands of dollars for speaking engagements), who graciously invited my class to Northeastern University for a free lecture on the myths surrounding serial killers. My students were riveted during this powerful presentation.


Getting media attention for your school can also result in fabulous opportunities. Letting newspapers, TV stations, and other media outlets know about the wonderful things you do in your classroom can result in some surprising outcomes. An article that appeared in The Christian Science Monitor about a writing award I won caught the attention of a philanthropist out in California. She contacted me and gave me $5,000 to start my school's culture club. Later she arranged for $10,000 more to fund our book club and rock ensemble — and those clubs have been continually funded for almost four years now! Another time a newspaper article about the culture club resulted in over 100 free tickets to the premiere of The Kite Runner.

Finally, seeking out grants, especially at the local level, can have amazing results. Every city and town usually has an arts council willing to fund school projects. One of the easiest grants I ever applied for — it was just a few clicks in an online application — was the Massachusetts Cultural Council Big Yellow School Bus Grant, which provided bus transportation to and from the Museum of Fine Arts for my students.

The bottom line is that with a little research and the chutzpah to ask for things, you can obtain wonderful resources for your classroom and exciting opportunities for your students. You just have to go for it.

What resources and ideas do you have? Please share!
~ Nancy


  • #1 Dawn

    Monday, August 16, 2010 at 11:11 AM


  • #2 Kevin Toro

    Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    The programs offered by Ms. Barile my senior year really motivated me to get out and see the world. As a low income student I would never have dreamed that I would see an opera till I was 40,or meet Jack Levin ever. This year was unforgettable in so many ways because of the many opportunities we were offered and I'm sad to see it over, for me at least =(

  • #3 Nicole T.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 11:47 PM


    These sound like such great ideas! Wish I had these opportunities when I was in school!

    I will have to check out that website too!

  • #4 Nancy Barile

    Saturday, August 07, 2010 at 04:58 AM

    Thank you, Victoria and Megan! I truly appreciate the support. ~ Nancy

  • #5 Victoria Jasztal

    Friday, August 06, 2010 at 07:29 PM

    I like seeing high school teachers who go above and beyond. It certainly impacts your students' lives. Some of the opportunities your class has had have been truly invigorating! One way I shook the money tree last year was how my students were able to tour a science lab at the University of Florida. I am looking forward to more great ideas! - Victoria

  • #6 Megan Power

    Friday, August 06, 2010 at 04:00 PM

    Great post!! Welcome to I am looking forward to reading your posts this year.
    Megan Power

  • #7 Nancy Barile

    Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 05:27 PM

    Oooh, Maria! I'm so glad they could come. Tell them they can still come this year, even though you'll be off in college. I love that photo of you three!

  • #8 Nancy Barile

    Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 05:25 PM

    Thank you, Jeanne and Janice! I'll try to keep the tips coming!

  • #9 Janice P.

    Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 04:10 PM

    It's exciting to know there are opportunities out there to help kids experience things that are unavailable due to shortage of money. This is also great for teachers who are frustrated and oftentimes use their own money.

  • #10 Maria Ines Peniche

    Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    OMG! I'm really going to miss Culture Club and finding a pretty dress to wear before going to the opera. Thank You sooooooo much, Ms. Barile, for giving my family and me such wonderful memories. My parents were thrilled to be able to accompany us those times we went to the opera because with all the work they have to do and all the struggles they've had to face, it had been 15 years since they had gone out together to something so fancy and special. <3

  • #11 Jeanne

    Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    Way to go Nancy. The "outside the box" experiences you give your kids are life changing. From your over the top efforts on behalf of your students, the students learn that anything is possible. Keep the tips coming.

  • #12 Nancy Barile

    Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 03:08 AM

    Thank you, Kim and Mark! I agree with you both - with some effort, you really can find some great resources out there!

  • #13 Kim T.

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010 at 03:27 PM

    Even in these tough times money IS out there if you know how to look and listen! DonorsChoose is my best friend and besides the physical resources that flowed into my classroom, students were directly exposed to the effects of philanthropy: an experience that extends way beyond the classroom. The old adage "you need money to make money" also holds true in education. Once you show that you are willing to be creative in the search for funding and implement consistently its rewards, you will be surprised at the additional sources of funding you will discover and the amount of money people will be willing to invest in you. Keep up the good work, Nancy!

  • #14 Mark L.

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010 at 03:17 PM

    Nancy- great info here. I'm going to use some of these pointers in my area..especially getting the media attention. I agree that there are many resources out there that can contribute, you just have to find them.

  • #15 Steve

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Nancy, you are and have always done such nice work with your students. Keep up the great work!

  • #16 Nick R

    Tuesday, August 03, 2010 at 03:34 PM

    Great views, I completely agree. Two thumbs up

  • #17 Nancy Barile

    Tuesday, August 03, 2010 at 03:32 PM

    Thank you Lori, Dan, Evan, Rob, and Madeline! And yes, Lori, you are correct. When the kids see what I can accomplish, they are more willing to try. I tell them I throw a lot of lines in the water, but every once in a while, I get to reel a big fish in!

  • #18 Lori S.

    Tuesday, August 03, 2010 at 03:10 PM

    Wow Nancy, these are great tips for teachers! Your also set a great example for your students, in that taking chances and making connections can sometimes really pay off!

  • #19 DanG

    Tuesday, August 03, 2010 at 02:57 PM

    This is a terrific article. I think it's a great idea to help kids learn about theirs or other cultures. I think that is a great technique.

  • #20 Evan

    Tuesday, August 03, 2010 at 02:40 PM

    Wow, talk about getting out there! I love the idea of the One Day University. What better way to get students interested in college than actually bringing them to one!?

    This reminds me about the part in the movie Freedom Writers where after reading Anne Frank the class raises money to bring the woman who hid her to come speak. The teacher made the call. It was a long shot, but like Wayne Gretzky says "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
    Luckily she took that shot, called, and had her come speak and change the lives of her students. Much like these opportunities!

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Nancy Barile
Nancy Barile
Revere, MA
Grades 9-12
Special Interests:
Advanced Placement English
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