A few days ago, I was chatting with my son’s pediatrician about how Americans spend over $60 billion each year on soda (pop). She mentioned that as many as four in five American children drink at least one soft drink a day. That’s millions of dollars spent on children with absolutely zero benefit to their wellbeing. The topic was whisked aside with her wistful words, “If only that money could go toward education.” The conversation happened to fall on the day I had volunteered to be in charge of the kindergarten auction project to raise money for my son’s school—and it lit a fire under me.
The irony is obvious. Here we are holding bake sales and making crafts to fund the education of our children while soda manufacturers are frolicking in fields of green as they devise more ways to get kids hooked. But I digress…I’ll save the rest of that rant for auction-night chitchat. In the meantime, let’s dive into the school auction ideas, and discuss how I’m going to raise a billion dollars for the school.
Since my oldest son is in kindergarten, you would think that I’m brand new to the world of school auctions. But my husband and I have actually already attended countless fundraisers for our children’s preschools, plus others to support friends and family members. So I’m well versed in the type of craft projects that are typically put on auction blocks.
Hats off to anyone who has ever accepted the challenge of overseeing a class-made auction item—especially one that’s so public. But while I always appreciate the sweet earnestness behind the projects, I come away thinking there’s an opportunity to be more creative—to coax the beautiful art of our children into a more sophisticated final format. I want to lead a project that the people in our community will want to buy—for a lot of money—because they’ll want to put it in their homes. And while my end goal is keeping the overall layout simple to really showcase the work of the children, perhaps I’ll also find a way to incorporate a subliminal anti-soda message into the final piece.
1. Block-Print Collage
image via Glitter Goods
The block-printed project on Glitter Goods is amazing for a number of reasons: it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make, it lends itself to partnering with other parents to pull off, and the end result is art I’d actually want to hang on my wall. I’m thinking of having the class make designs inspired by the San Francisco skyline. Or maybe we can do still-lifes of beautiful flowers displayed in defunct soda bottles. With this project, you could create one large piece of art to go home with the highest bidder, plus lots of small framed pieces for each family to buy.
2. “When I Grow Up” Photo Book
Since our school already publishes a yearbook through Mixbook, I thought it would be fun to create a custom photo book that allocates one spread for each child to dream about their future life as a grown up. Kids will be given a list of 10 questions to really think about and answer as honestly and creatively as possible. For early elementary schoolers, lots of in-class parental guidance will be required to tease out a couple gems. I am picturing a big beautiful photo—maybe the class picture to make it easy—on the left. The most interesting questions and answers can be featured on the facing page. Send out an email to the class a few weeks before the auction to get a sense for how many to order. Most parents will order at least one since they’re so affordable, and some will order many copies for extended family. Ask for a donation to the school for each one sold.
image via BCS Kid Art
I love the way this project from a Beverly Cleary School Auction embodies some great messages to teach our children. The obvious one is the idea of peace and the symbolism of the peace dove. But I think there’s more to it. Through creating a truly collaborative piece like this, kids learn first-hand that sometimes—almost magically—the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Kindergartners may not be ready to add the word “gestalt” to their vocabularies, but they understand it inherently: something beautiful can take flight from the coming together of many small things. Have the children create enough that each family can bid to take one home.
4. Children’s Silhouettes
This project is a way of creating a unique framed work of art for each child in the class, with the hope that each parent will shell out to take it home. The original idea came from Janet and Stu of Three Potato Four, but we found the detailed how-to directions on Design Sponge. My idea is to create a silhouette for each of the 21 children in my son’s class, then mount each one on a solid vibrantly colored background. Placed in white frames, the art will really POP.
image via White Nest
If there’s time, I am going to make this in addition to a kid-focused-art project. A few weeks ago I featured this Bus Sign from White Nest in my post, 6 Easy Typography-Inspired Craft Ideas. My idea is to make the same sign using the name of my son’s elementary school, plus the last names of his teacher, principal, and other key teachers and administrators at his school as pretend street names. The result will be a bus-sign-inspired piece of wall art that anyone in the community would bid high for—including the owners of the local market (hint, hint), which is soon to be soda-free (right?).
Have you ever made an auction item for a school fundraiser? I’d love to hear your creative school auction ideas!