Every year someone posts to the Art Education lists with questions about sketchbooks in elementary - How useful are they? And what proof do you have they are beneficial? Not too long ago, I did a web search to find research on using Sketchbooks. Most of what I found (ERIC documents) was the benefit to CORE subjects - which is a plus for you, too. No, I do not have the research documents - only found that they are available to you. All Getty TeacherArtExchange List members who use sketchbooks with elementary have found them to very beneficial. Students feel like real artists.
Anyone who is trying to "sell" the idea of sketchbooks to your parent organization - or administrator - should sit them down in front of this video: The Sketchbook Project World Tour.
The video The Sketchbook Project World Tour interviews three artists and shows them using their sketchbooks. It also shows ways to use sketchbooks to integrate art with literacy, math and science. I can certainly see social studies, too. It is really enjoyable to see the elementary students talk about how useful their sketchbooks are to them. (An interesting tidbit - my son still has a drawing and clay model he made of a cell in elementary. He is now 21. I bet if I asked him - he could still tell me all the parts of the cell and what they do)
The video is 20 minutes long. This may not be a video you would pop in and have your classes watch from beginning to end - but you might want to show segments of it. You can decide after you get the video. It is definitely a must if you have an administrator that just doesn't want to buy into the purchase of sketchbooks -when you know they are needed. Sometimes it is best to just shell out the money yourself when you need a resource (I did all the time - and it was worth it. An now the government encourages it with your tax deduction for educators).
Maybe this would make a good research topic for you? (Those elementary teachers who are planning on getting your masters degree) Come up with a topic that is narrowed down to art/elementary students (you decide what grade level to introduce them). Then you can make your own video to convince the school board to continue funding the books. Sketchbooks CAN motivate learning in all subjects. What if you worked closely with Math and Science teachers and used the same sketchbook? Art lessons would utilize drawings done in math and science, too... just a thought. Connections... connections... connections.
You might also want to consider: "Building a Nature Sketchbook" Art Video World # 8718.
Artist Jim Pollock is an advocate for using sketchbooks with students. View his sketchbooks. Jim has done email interviews with students. Contact information is on his site.
How To Make Sketchbooks:
You will find tons of info on making sketchbooks in Getty TeacherArtExchange archives. Enter make sketchbooks teacherartexchange in Google for starters. Be sure to click on the see more results at bottom of the search results page.
If your school has one of those book binding machines, that is the way to go. Get some parent volunteers to help make the books. See these name design sketchbooks submitted by Denise Pannell. If you don't have one of those machines, invest in some three hole folders (on sale now in many stores for 5 cents a piece). Buy some three hole paper and assemble books (again - get some parent volunteers - or even older students for this method). Of course, you can punch the holes yourself... but it would sure save hours of time to buy the paper already punched - the time saved is well worth the expense.
Cheapest of course would be to insert photocopy paper inside a folded piece of Construction Paper and staple (put as many sheets in as you can and still staple). Once that book is full - make a new one.