Testing's over, now what? Some great culminating projects for your students | Mentoring in the Middle

Testing's over, now what? Some great culminating projects for your students

 I was never a fan of giving up the structure of the school year once state testing was over.  That didn't mean we didn't have fun.  I think kids just do better with structure.

So, what did we do?  There are lots of projects that:

  • allow for choice
  • are academic
  • blend multiple subject areas
  • let students work independently or with a partner (or in small groups)
  • have structure
  • allow teacher check-ins
  • let students be imaginative
  • keep students totally engaged
We did these projects year-round but I always saved one for the end of the year.  My students often claimed these were some of the most fun activities we did all year.
Cover of a baseball and food product for middle-grade students
A great project to work on right after state testing in the spring, this one combines two of my joys - baseball and food!  Students are assigned one of 30 major league teams and they research the team's history, name, and mascot.  

Then they explore food in the region that is considered a "must try."  Finally, they explore what food is already served in the stadium and they come up with their own unique restaurant.
Cover for "Plan a Road Trip" project
Do your students complain that they'll never use half the math they learn?  Here's a great product that uses a lot of geography and real-world math skills.  Students are assigned a state, and with a budget, plan a 2-week trip from your school to their state.  They can stop along the way to see other sites, but they have to figure out costs for visiting, food, and hotels along the way.

One of the things I loved about this project was my students' appreciation for how much things cost.  The wonderful byproduct of that was that they explored state and national parks - which are low cost or free - and discovered a lot of wonderful places to visit.  Some of my students' parents used their research to plan family vacations and I've heard that from teachers who have bought this product, too.
Cover of Family heritage project showing a map
My students enjoyed this project which we often did before starting Social Studies.  I felt like it gave students a foundation from which to start and it was a great blend of Social Studies and Writing.  Students research the origins of their name, create a family tree, and identify the countries and continents they're from.  Many discover roots they were unaware of, and after drawing the country's flags, they create a unique one just for their family.
One of my most popular products, this is another great way to blend Social Studies and Writing.  After students learn 20 important landforms and bodies of water, they create their own country around a central theme.  

They create a map of their country with all the landforms, a capital, and several large cities.  Then, they write the history of their country.  I love how students imaginatively create the discovery of their usually peace-loving countries!  

I recently received this comment from a teacher who was doing this with her students.  

    I am obsessed with this product! I started it with my students after we had gone over different geography terms and map skills. They are having so much fun creating their country while using the skills! Absolutely wonderful project and it allows for such creativity! My kids have been choosing to work on this during free time rather than playing on their Chromebooks! I can't recommend this project enough! Thanks for creating it!

Cover of the Create a Restaurant Project showing two students in front of their restaurant
This was one of two projects that I often saved until this time of year.  It was a ton of fun, and if you created a Restaurant Fair to celebrate their restaurants, it was a lovely time in that crazy-chaotic-joyful way!

In a similar vein to the Country project, students create their own restaurant around a theme.  Then they need to create a menu, design their space, and write a realistic history of how the restaurant came to be.  

On the day of the Restaurant Fair, parents were invited to come to taste a sampling of one food item from the restaurant, and students proudly showcased their menus, histories, designs, and themes.

I hope these have given you some ideas about the kinds of projects you can create with your students that serve as a kind of culminating activity for what they've learned during the year, and also allow some special time for collaborating, coloring, and laughing!

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