Ann Arbor School Supplies - Lists & Donation Drives

Ann Arbor School Supplies

Once mid-July hits, Back to School ads and promotions have started and I am hearing about crazy supply lists from friends across the country. Every year, I hear new parents asking about the Ann Arbor School Supply Lists.

Ann Arbor School Supply List

When my daughter was starting school I was right there with you, I was wondering when will we get the Ann Arbor Public School Supply list. And wondering if I would get it too late and have to pay full price for supplies.

The good news is that there is NO required supply list* for Ann Arbor Public Schools elementary schools. They ask that you send your child with a backpack and a lunch box if they will be bringing lunch from home. Some teachers also will have a wish list for classroom supplies. (*I have heard that at some schools, particularly Lawton, the PTO sends out a requested list of supplies. Other schools are often happy to take donations.)

However, back to school sales are a great time to stock up on supplies for home – crayons, markers, paper, pencils/pens, etc.


For 2021-2022, there are a few extra considerations for school supplies due to technology and COVID safety protocols.

Disclosure: Ann Arbor with Kids may receive a small commission if you make a purchase from the product links below.


Masks will be required in AAPS buildings for 2021-2022 (at least initially – hopefully vaccine availability for younger children and increased vaccination rates will make them not necessary by spring). My daughter has masks, but not enough for 5 days a week – particularly if she wants a fresh mask mid-day after lunch.

Especially for young children, it may be worth investing in a strap to hang the mask around their neck while outside so they do’t lose it.

Backpack & Lunch Box

A Backpack should be large enough to fit your child’s snow pants, hat, gloves, shoes, and lunch.

My daughter brought her snow pants to school daily in the winter. Even when there is not snow on the ground, they kept her warm (& somewhat dry/clean when snow starts to melt). She also brought a change of shoes for wet or snowy days so that wet boots can be left outside of the classroom to help it stay dry and cleaner.

For 2021-2022, kids may need to carry their tech home. My understanding is that younger grades will likely leave the iPad (K-2) or Chromebook (grades 3-12) at school. Older kids, particularly in middle and high school will be bringing the device between school and home more frequently.

I definitely recommend buying a quality backpack that is built to last. I’ve heard of character backpacks not lasting a school year. On the other hand, my daughter has used her Lands End backpack and lunch box for 3+ years each. Her second one pictured below would have gone for a 4th year, but Lands End ran their backpacks 50% so she got an upgrade. That third backpack is going into its fourth year (all of middle school and now sophomore year).

Back to School - Lands End Backpack

There are a wide range of backpack sizes. My daughter started with the Lands End small for K-2. A folder was a tight fit, but we made it work. For 3-5 she had a medium Tech Pack (pictured). For middle school, she had an XL Tech Pack and a zipper binder. The XL Tech Pack held her Clarinet in middle school so it’s one less thing to carry. The Tech Pack has a padded laptop slot which will be great for her Chromebook in 2021-2022. As a high schooler I expect she will be bringing it back and forth to school most days.

A lunch box/bag and ice pack is also helpful if your child will be bringing lunch from home. As a matched set, my daughter’s lunchbox attaches to the outside of the backpack and doesn’t take up space inside the bag. Be sure to look for discount codes before you order. Also, I found Lands End customer service very helpful in telling me what color the monogram thread was in the picture. My daughter ordered a teal backpack and we weren’t sure which monogram color (yellow or chartreuse) was used in the sample (for privacy I blurred part of the monogram).

If your backpack/lunch box do not connect directly, a friend recommended a carabiner clip. While they can start the year with the lunchbox in their backpack, by the time winter rolls around with snow pants there won’t be much room.

Last spring COVID protocols meant water fountains were unavailable. I suspect that will continue for 2021-2022. When students returned in spring, water bottles were recommended. Make sure your child has several water bottles to alternate daily. The bottle fillers on water fountains were available.


Extra Suggested Supplies

The first time we had a teacher suggest supplies was in 3rd grade. Regular pencils are provided in the classroom. At back to school night, he mentioned that some kids prefer the mechanical pencils and can bring their own. My daughter has been using mechanical pencils that she brings from home since then. She likes the Pentel Twist Erase.


While the school supplies needed supplies, in our experience this did not include folders for transporting papers home – school work, newsletters, paperwork. It would all get shoved in her backpack with her snow pants and other gear. Children are certainly welcome to supply their own folders for transporting papers home. Personally, my daughter was happier shoving it in her backpack than taking the time to put it in a folder. But, other children may prefer their papers to be neater.

The Best Ever School Supply

Ann Arbor Back to School - Deskmate

Her 5th grade teacher recommended a “Deskmate” which is a storage clipboard. They had a few extra that previous students had left behind if you didn’t provide one and your child wanted to use one. These things are wonderful! I wish my daughter had one the entire time in school. They are perfect for doing homework on the go – writing surface, storing the homework, storing the pencils, etc. And as a bonus, they don’t bend in the backpack like a paper folder. (You will need a larger backpack to accommodate this. My daughter’s Medium TechPack from Lands End barely fit the deskmate.)

Where can you find this awesome product in 2021? I wish I knew. Hers was from Learning Express which recently closed. They had ones that are decorated (or can be decorated). My daughter’s (with her name digitally removed) is above.

I never thought to look at Learning Express until I saw her friends with them. She started the year with a plain gray one that I ordered from Amazon. The suggestion arrived the last day that Free Prime Shipping would get it to me for the first day of school. Before placing the order, we checked two office supply stores locally and did not find what we wanted – theirs were metal, side opening, etc. 

Zipper Binders

Zipper Binders are very popular with the middle school crowd at y daughter’s school. The binders have a handle and a shoulder strap for easy carrying. These can hold all of their class materials instead of different notebooks/folders for each class. This version from Case-It is very similar to my daughter’s. We bought hers at Meijer so that we could look at the features of each one and the exterior pattern to find the best fit for her.

They remind me of the Trapper Keepers we had when I was in middle school – except larger and with carrying straps. I am glad to see the kids switching to the binder. In college, I used a binder system for notes and it was so nice to have both notes and handouts from a class in one spot instead of a separate folder and notebook.

My daughter did still carry her backpack in addition to the binder. The backpack had her music folder, clarinet, change of shoes for winter, and other items that didn’t fit well in the binder.

Other Suggested Supplies

If you see a tri-fold presentation board on sale, I definitely recommend purchasing one. You’ll need it eventually for science fair and other projects. We reused the same board for all of elementary school by stapling colored cardstock and paper printouts. It lasted through multiple presentations most years. It finally needed replacing her last year of middle school. We upgraded to a foam board with a black background – no more cutting cardstock! I am expecting it to last through high school. We have this board from Elmers (don’t buy it from Amazon, I paid considerably less at Meijer)

School Supplies for Teachers

My daughter’s elementary school started a bulletin board with teacher wish list items one year for Teacher Appreciation Week. It was such a hit with parents, that it is now a permanent fixture. We also get an occasional message from the office that they are in need of items.

Some of the commonly requested items are dry erase markers, printer paper (white and color), and tissues. Personally, I frequently contributed pencil cap erasers at my daughter’s request including as her 100s day project in first grade. She had a classmate who had a tendency to snap the erasers off pencils so few classroom pencils had erasers.

Last summer, I stocked up on supplies like notebooks to donate to her school. But with virtual school, AAPS did not take them. I am hoping they will want donations for 2021-2022 to get them out of my closet (I probably bought 80 notebooks at $0.10/notebook)

School Supplies for Home Use

While there is no need to buy supplies to send to school, you will likely need some supplies at home, particularly in the upper grades. Back to School sales are a great time to stock up on school supplies to use at home. I always buy my crayons and glue sticks for the year at back to school sales. Now that my daughter is getting older (Tenth Grade), I will also be buying mechanical pencils, pens, loose leaf paper for homework, and other basic school supplies.

My daughter and I actually had an argument about loose leaf paper a few summers ago. I mentioned that I should get some for this year. Her argument was that she still had some and we should wait until it was needed. I showed her the price difference between list price and Back to School sale price, so she understood why we buy at back to school sales.


Donate to School Supply Drives

Imber Wealth Analysts

Imber Wealth Advisors are holding a school supply drive in July. Supplies will benefit Ozone House, The Education Project, and Washtenaw ISD. They have an Amazon wishlist of items, but you can get most of the items anywhere. They are located at 955 W. Eisenhower Circle STE A, Ann Arbor.

Education Project

The Education Project will take donations directly at their office at the WISD building. Get their wishlist and directions to their office to drop off supplies.

United Way Stuff the Bus

As of our July 14th update, we do not see information on the 2021 event.

Other School Drives

Events are often held in August and haven’t been announced yet (July 14). We will update as we find details.

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