Classroom objects that ‘90s kids remember all too well

From colorful scooters to scented markers, there’s more than one way to tell a ‘90s classroom apart from other decades.

Back-to-school lists are starting to pop up on refrigerators all over the nation as summer begins to wind down and the fall quarter approaches. The list seemingly gets longer and longer every year, and items on the list have certainly changed through the decades.

Today, it’s common to see several computer screens, chargers, electronic tablets and styluses in the classroom.

Of course, there was a time when computers were totally foreign in a classroom. In the 1990s, that slowly began to change, as a single computer (vs the dozens that are in class today) became more and more common.

The introduction to new tech in the classroom wasn’t the only aspect that set the ‘90s school scene apart from other decades. Though the ‘90s aren’t as old as the ‘60s, classroom items that belonged to the decade are certainly old enough to bring on the nostalgia.

With a new school year lurking right around the corner, we’re taking you right back into a typical 1990s classroom with these 11 items.

1. Trapper Keepers everywhere

The sweet sound of Velcro. Trapper Keepers were one of the most coveted school supply items in the 1990s, some 10 years after they were released nationwide. Bright, vibrant colors teamed up with practicality for students of all ages. It was no simple folder that would send your algebra test flying across the room. The folders, literally, trapped papers with vertical flaps to keep them in. The Trappers could easily be switched out from class to class from the Keeper, a larger three-ring binder that folded up and shut with Velcro. Opening the Trapper Keeper and hearing the sound of Velcro ripping, for whatever reason, was oddly satisfying.

2. Pencil sharpeners

Image Credit: eBay

These things made so much noise and wouldn’t actually sharpen your pencil unless you got up from your seat at least twice. Pencil sharpeners might be hanging near the door frames of countless classrooms around the United States, but with the takeover of mechanical pencils, electronic tablets, smartphones and laptops, these tools have seen better days.

3. Overhead projector

Image Credit:

Before there were remote-controlled ceiling projectors and HDMI cords, these projectors simply got the job done. All you needed was a light bulb and a wall to display graphs, charts or pages from a book. The items of study were on a dry-erasable transparency sheet. Any marking a teacher made on the sheet would be projected on the screen (or wall), enlarging it for the entire class to see! It was the best feeling when you got to demonstrate how to solve a math problem in front of the entire class. That is, if you got the problem right and managed not to blind yourself from the reflection bulb in the process!

4. TV cart

Image Credit:

You knew what type of day it was going to be when this behemoth of technology rolled in. Often reserved from the library, the TV cart usually came equipped with a VCR for movie day. Whether it was the end of the year and a classic movie was on, or an actual education-related program, you were sitting in school and watching TV and it didn’t get better than that. Students today simply don’t understand the joy of seeing the tiny screen flash on, rewinding the tape and hearing the scratchy audio from the TV speakers. Just another ‘90s classroom staple made obsolete by projectors and smart TVs.

5. Old Apple Computers

In the ‘90s, personal computers were certainly on the rise and Apple was ahead of the game in the classroom. Depending on what year you were in high school in the ‘90s, there could be only one of these per classroom or a whole row of them! They allowed students to take a break from the traditional paper and pencil, learning in an often new, interactive way. Now, we have to force kids to put down the electronics, even in school!

6. Scented Markers

Is it weird that there was a company that encouraged marker-sniffing? It wasn’t a surprise to walk into any given ‘90s middle school classroom and be overwhelmed with the smell of these markers. Not only did they have an intense amount of ink for vivid drawings, the scents were potent. Be honest, you can smell your favorite marker just by looking at this picture. That’s how strong these scents were!

7. Pencil toppers

No matter what type of pencil you used in the ‘90s, it was commonplace to have a pencil topper! These expressive decorations symbolized what you liked and served as a cool way to make a friend or see what others were interested in, by simply looking at their pencil! There was a wide range of options to choose from, but Troll doll pencil toppers were a big hit. What topped your pencil in the ‘90s?

8. Pencil training grips

Image Credit: Amazon

There’s no telling if these things actually helped students learn how to hold a pencil properly or not, but they looked cool and if you could get a color that matched your pencil topper, even better! Even if your handwriting at a younger age was decent, it was an amusing way to make school a little more fun. Did you need the training grips, or have you always had that immaculate hand writing?

9. Pencil Boxes

Image Credit:

Unlike the Trapper Keeper, there was simply no way to keep things organized in these plastic pencil boxes. They were used for much more than pencils though. Erasers, the fruity-smelling markers, pencil sharpeners (and all the shavings) and literally anything else that could fit went into these boxes. It was great when they remained closed, but every ‘90s kid remembers the box flying open and the wide range of utensils falling on the floor. What color did you have?

10. Parachute in gym class

Image credit: AP Images

Stepping out of the classroom and into the gym. Anyone who went to elementary school or middle school in the ‘90s remembers parachute day. If you were holding the edges, you were making as many waves as possible. There were a number of games ‘90s kids remember, such as creating a huge mushroom cloud, or playing cat and mouse while the rest of your classmates shake the parachute uncontrollably! Another classic was popcorn! You put a bunch of bouncy balls in the center of the parachute and start shaking. What’s your favorite memory of parachute day?

11. Floor Scooters

Image Credit: Amazon

Keeping it in the gymnasium, there is simply no forgetting what rolling a wheel from one of these scooters over your finger felt like, with your entire body weight pressing down. These toys weren’t exclusively ‘90s, but every kid who attended school in the decade has either very fond or very unenthusiastic memories. What was your favorite game to play when rolling on these?

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


WordsmithWorks 8 months ago
TV carts, overhead projectors, old Apple computers, trapper keepers, manual pencil sharpeners? Those were 80's (and before) school staples. Whoever made this list up was neither an 80's nor 90's kid.
trogg888 WordsmithWorks 7 months ago
I remember. Some of those items from the 60s
GEMof72 15 months ago
These are 80’s things except for 8, 10, & 11.
geatornez82 19 months ago
Oh yes, I remember everything on this list. Loved those scented markers and parachute day in gym class (I hated gym!) I also hated those overhead projectors. I could never see what was written on them because the print was too small, and I was too far away. Two years later, I wound up with glasses.
L 19 months ago
Please! We had parachute day in the 70s. One year it was the same day class pictures were taken.
MrsFletcher 20 months ago
Fun post! Brings back memories from the 90s.....although our school wasn't so advanced to have a computer in the classroom. I was in the 5th grade ( 1998 ) when our school bought 12 computers and started a lab that we could attend every Wednesday in place of music class. I loved retrieving the printouts from the printer and peeling off the perforated sides of the paper...and, of course, playing Oregon Trail.
hermanstein2015 20 months ago
Ahhh the 90s I miss being a little kid!
Michael 20 months ago
What about trolls? They seemed big in the sixties. You could get the proper hard body ones with fluffy hair, or cheap plastic ones with long straight hair. But then they seemed to disappear. Except they reappeared for a while, in the late eighties or so.
Runeshaper 20 months ago
I had most of these items in school and remember many of them.
A35Barber 20 months ago
Off by one decade. This is legit 80’s stuff. 100% a millennial wrote this.
GEMof72 A35Barber 15 months ago
justjeff 20 months ago
MeTV's writer phoned this one in and are *way* off base with some of their "90s" items...

Hand-crank pencil sharpeners have been in use for over 100 years. Overhead projectors were in classrooms in the 1960s... same as TV carts... Pencil boxes have been around "forever"... in earlier times they were wooden. By the 1950s and 1960s they ranged from those made just like cardboard cigar boxes or molded from plastic...
Load previous comments
daDoctah justjeff 20 months ago
And the two things the school always insisted we have but never found a legitimate use for: ring-shaped paper "reinforcements", and the French curve.
justjeff daDoctah 20 months ago
I found the reinforcements helpful... because invariably a page would get torn out of the binder...
MaryAnn MrsPhilHarris 7 months ago
I too, sniffed paste. Then I decided NOT to taste it! 😜
Lillyrose 20 months ago
I had a Trapper Keeper when I was in high school in the 80's. I loved the Trapper Keeper!
KJExpress 20 months ago
I went to school in the late 60's through the 70's. We had pencil sharpeners, overhead projectors and in elementary school we occasionally played with a parachute in gym class. We had tv or a/v carts and plenty of objects to stick on the end of our pencils. So.......
Load previous comments
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 20 months ago
Oh that would have been so much fun!

Did you have trouble getting into METV yesterday?
LoveMETV22 MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
No. I haven't had any issues. I see texasluva, Aliison and KJ were having some yesterday. I had an issue a couple of weeks ago. I could log in, Stories and Quizzes would post, notifications I guess were working, but when I tried to post a comment, I got the error message. It lasted a few hours, they seemed to work that glitch out. No problems since then.
LoveMETV22 MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
If you want a chuckle. In the Quiz: " How well do you know the Horta episode of Star Trek?"
I posted a video clip to KJ with a question: " 𝙄𝙩'𝙨 " 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙁𝙧𝙞𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙈𝙤𝙫𝙞𝙚 𝙌𝙪𝙞𝙯" 𝙢𝙚𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙘𝙚𝙣𝙚. 𝙌𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙨 " 𝙒𝙝𝙤 𝙞𝙨 𝙒𝙝𝙤?
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 20 months ago
I couldn’t get in until this morning. It was awful. 😢
Catman 20 months ago
LOL even my kids weren't kids in the 90s.
MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
Well I wasn’t a 90s kid, but I remember pencil sharpeners. In fact I have one like the one in the picture. I still love the smell of pencil shavings. No idea why. 🤷‍♀️
Load previous comments
justjeff MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
Thanks, but no worries... it's not like I don't have *tons* of them already.. LOL! If it shows up, great. If not... I appreciate the thought...
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 20 months ago
Lol I skipped because they creeped me out.
justjeff MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
Geez... you get creeped our by ventriloquist's dummies... Moriyah gets creeped out by clowns... at this rate, nobody will be able to post *anything* because *someone* will get creeped out by "something*... and that creeps me out!
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 20 months ago
I’m with Moriyah, I do not care for clowns either. 😳
Michael 20 months ago
When I was a kid, markers were smelly. But it was fallout from the way they were made. Eventually markers had less smell, except when it was deliberate.

It's my understanding that overhead projectors were used in lightshows from about 1967.

Wall mounted pencil sharpeners were an excuse to stretch your legs.

In grade five, the class was divided up. Some of us did "independent learning", a vague outline given to us. The rest of the class got taughtt by the teacher. More fun than computers
justjeff Michael 20 months ago
Markers smelled because they use(d) Toluene and xylene to make them permanent. To get a full grasp on the history of markers, the different kinds and their respective properties, check out:
Pacificsun 20 months ago
Maybe I've been spending too much time in Dollar Stores, because many of these things seem all too familiar. Hey, MeTV writers! Boomers weren't using Bear Skins and Knives in the classroom. We had the same concepts, maybe with a different style or color. But needed way to keep our homework neat and organized by class or subject. Yeah, we even had shiny stuff too! Would you like to know how old that pencil sharpener 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙞𝙨? Laptop projectors are actually a newer concept, meaning those overhead projectors were used for a very long. We even had scented inks. And carts like the one shown, which just happened to be used for heavy items, like compact TVs.

Anyway, just speaking up for my generation too!
harlow1313 Pacificsun 20 months ago
I am a child of the Universe. Respectfully, down with generational tribalism.
Pacificsun harlow1313 20 months ago
The question is
𝙄𝙎 there more than one way to tell a ‘90s classroom apart from other decades.

𝐼 𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝓀 𝓃𝑜𝓉
Wasn't that kind of the point 😉

justjeff Pacificsun 20 months ago
Yeah... I unloaded on them as well! Guess what, MeTV... We also had canvas-covered ring binders where we could add a pencil pouch, a 12 inch plastic ruler, 5-tab divider inserts, filler paper and graph paper... in other words, we didn't *need* an over-priced "Trapper Keeper" to be organized...
Michael Pacificsun 20 months ago
The Mac is a giveaway. That wouldn't have been much earlier, and soon it wss superceded by later Macs.

But many of these items had a wider spread. I remember the scented markers because the daughter of a friend had them. She was born in 1984
Pacificsun justjeff 20 months ago
"Overpriced Trapper Keeper!" Too funny! We had all those things in our own styles. I LOVED shopping for the new school year. That was the ONLY good thing about going back to school. Yeah, the 3 ring cool pencil/pen keeper that went into a binder, was neat. Hilarious to think those all purpose rolling carts were unique to the 90's. They're probably older than me!!!
Pacificsun Michael 20 months ago
Scented ink! WE had them. How do you think they made ink in the first place!!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?