Life at Philly Public Schools: Teachers Make Wiffle Balls Out of Duct Tape

A photo from the Nebinger School shows ingenuity in the face of meager resources.

Photo of duct tape and newspaper wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Photo of duct tape and newspaper Wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Philadelphia public school teachers have to get creative sometimes, especially when funds are scarce. Thanks to Reddit, a photo taken by a teacher at a South Philadelphia elementary school is going viral — much to that teacher’s surprise.

“I am frankly amazed!” says Leslie Marie Grace, the art teacher at the George W. Nebinger School at Sixth and Carpenter. “The image has really struck a chord with some people.” Here’s the story behind it:

“I was helping our gym teacher set up for field day,” she says, “and I saw the sack full of the duct tape and newspaper balls. I recalled seeing the kids using them to play Wiffle ball in the school yard, too, and thought that was an interesting and resourceful way to create the balls.” She put the photo on her Instagram feed with a comment about what Wiffle balls look like in a district with funding issues. “Part of me took that picture in protest and out of angst because we all work so hard for our students to help them succeed and that’s what we have to deal with. But we’re creative beings and we make it work.”

For instance, she notes that Nebinger went without art as a school subject for more than 11 years. This year, art came back, but without a budget for art supplies. So Grace raised over $9,000 to make the art program a success, even in a classroom that sounds somewhat ill-suited to the subject matter: “No sink? No big deal. Use cat litter buckets — one for dirty water and one for clean.” She, too, relies on the miraculous Macgyvering powers of duct tape: “Duct tape is my best friend in the art room. It fixes a lot of things, like the phone that won’t stay on the wall, or the chairs with uneven legs.”

Grace doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea about the school, though, which she says is a wonderful place. “We make it work for our students,” she says.

As for the Wiffle balls, there’s an upside to those, too: “The balls are actually pretty fun to play with. They make a great whapping sound when you hit them.”

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