It’s back to school season again and time to shop for new school supplies. Let’s take a look at how school supplies have evolved throughout history and how they will continue to change in the future. Get ready for a flash from the past.
One of the earliest school supplies recorded in history is the hornbook that was first produced in England in 1450. Hornbooks were usually made from a wooden tablet with a handle to hold on to. Usually a hornbook would have the alphabet printed on it covered with a clear sheet made out of a piece of horn to protect the letters. Children could carry these books with them to help them learn the alphabet. Sometimes they also had prayers or other inscriptions for the child to memorize.
Back in the 1800s children usually gathered in one-room schoolhouses. Each child might have had a few school supplies that consisted of a writing slate, chalk, and a few books that they carried strapped together with leather straps or a belt. They brought their lunch to school in tin pails that look nothing like today’s plastic, insulated lunch sacks.
In the early to mid 1900s students started to have paper and pencils and more schoolbooks. They still didn’t use bags or backpacks, but rather, carried their books to and from school by hand or held together with a belt.
Dick and Jane readers started being used in the 1930s and continued to be a part of school curriculum until the 1970s. Dick and Jane books were used as reading material for beginning readers. These simple readers contained phrases like “See Jane run, see Dick run.”
1943 the first Pee-Chee folders were produced as a way to keep papers organized and held together. The folders all have pictures of students performing sports activities on them. They used to only come in a peach color hence they were named Pee-Chees. These folders are still available today in colors other than peach as well.
Writing tablets have been produced since the late 1800s containing sheets of newsprint with widely spaced lines for young children to practice printing. Most children could not afford paper tablets in the early 20th century, but they did become more popular in the 1950s and 60s. In the 60s the same company began producing spiral notebooks with lined paper that are still being used today.
Simple pocket calculators have been available for use in schools since the 1970s. In more recent years those calculators are being phased out as students as young as grade six have scientific calculators on their school supplies list.
The Trapper Keeper binder made it’s debut in the 1970s and gained popularity in the 80s and 90s as a stylish way of keeping papers organized with dividers and a closing flap held in place by Velcro.
In the 1980s backpacks or book bags became the most common way to carry school supplies and books to school. Backpacks are still popular today with students of all ages, although there have been some concerns that young students should not carry heavy backpacks because it can put too much strain on children’s developing frames.
Today school supplies usually include paper, pencils (#2 or mechanical), colored pencils, markers, tape, white out, ruler, highlighters, erasers, calculators, spiral notebooks, binders, folders, books (for each subject), and a USB flash drive for storing and turning in writing assignments.
These items from today’s school supplies lists all seem very advanced compared to previous decades, but how much will school supplies change within the next ten years? It is possible that within the next decade school supplies will become mainly electronic?
Electronic tablets have notepad programs for taking notes, paint programs for drawing diagrams, they have plenty of storage space for homework assignments, all types of different calculators, web access for doing research, dictionaries, thesauruses, and e-books that you can highlight and take notes in. It almost seems like the tablet could become the all inclusive school supply. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the more classic school supplies in the upcoming years.