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Maximizing The Last Days of School

For most of us, these are the last days of the school year, the standardized tests are done and our thoughts, as well as those of our students, are turning toward summer break. In many parts of the country, the weather is beginning to warm up as the sun awakes from its winter snooze. As a result, these can be hard days to keep students focused on their work and for that reason many teachers look for assignments with a big dose of fun to help keep kids engaged. With that in mind, here are a few assignments that may help you make use of the remaining days in a positive manner while introducing enough creativity and freedom to help keep young minds from wandering too far afield.

Moon Survival Challenge: During the 1960s as NASA scientist were preparing to send an astronaut to the moon, someone developed a test to see how priorities would be set for certain pieces of gear in an emergency situation. It’s still a fun challenge to consider which items would be most important and which could be discarded. Do an Internet search for “Moon Survival Challenge” and download the pdf file, it will give you the list of items, instructions for how to play along and the priorities set by the brainiacs at NASA.

Sim-country: Give your students the longitude and latitude of and uninhabited island somewhere in the world and ask them to create their own civilization there. What needs to be done first? How will people live? What will their economy be based on and how will they be ruled? Let their imaginations run as they create their country’s anthem, flag and holidays. Then ask them why they made those choices. It should keep them occupied for days.

Photo scavenger hunt: The latest statistics show that 77% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 are now carrying cell phones. Why not put them to work? Have students make lists of challenging and unusual photos they would like to see; sining with the principal, getting the maintenance staff to get them into a room normally off limits like the boiler room, laying on the floor in the gymnasium surrounded by basketballs. Then let students try to get as many of these images during their non-class hours. Just remind them that breaking school rules will disqualify them from the game.

Advice to your next class: Ask students to write letters to the next group of students who will be entering your class in the fall. The idea here is to be as humorous as possible, poking fun at yourselves and your idiosyncrasies. It might be best if you show them what you are looking for by first writing a letter to their future teachers, showing them the kind of lighthearted tone you are seeking.

Internet Scavenger Hunt: Give your students a long list of esoteric concepts and ideas from other cultures and see how fast they can find them on the Internet. Give them bonus points for finding a parallel in our own culture.

The Marshmallow Challenge: Give your students a bag of marshmallows and a box of spaghetti noodles and ask them to build the tallest structure they can in a set time. Divide them into two teams if you like and let them compete against one another. One educator has been doing this for years and, ironically, he has found that kindergarteners often outdo their older peers.
You are likely to find many more ideas if you conduct and Internet search for “end of school year activities.” Just remember to keep the fun quotient high while also keeping their minds engaged for maximum results. It may only be a couple of weeks, but you still want to maximize your time. Remember, someone now has the students you will inherit this fall; do you want them to spend the last two weeks of school watching movies?