Lauren Hodson | May 2018

5 End of the Year Ideas to Help Students Stay Engaged

The school year is coming to an end and things can get a little crazy. Everyone feels cooped up inside as the sun beams through the windows. Friends may be on summer vacation already, which can make you green with envy. Due to snow days, grades could be closed before the actual end of school so there is little to be accountable for.

Trying to design projects or activities that keep students engaged when they would otherwise be on summer vacation can be tricky. The struggle can be real. You, as an educator want to provide them with experiences that enrich their lives and expand their brains, but you also must make them fun enough that students will want to participate with pure internal motivation.

We all know that without engagement, behavior problems can become an issue, and trying to be more entertaining than the idea of summer vacation, can be difficult.  Here’s 5 ideas that will help you stay engaged all the way to the last day.

end of school year ideas

1. STEAM Challenges!

These types of challenges can keep the mind active while summer is knocking at the door. Because they are inquiry-based, there are many ways to approach the problem and invite collaborative learning opportunities.

  • Stick Bombs: Explosive Kinetic Engineering and Chain Reactions HERE
  • Musical STEAM with the Cricket in Times Square HERE
  • Base Ten Buildings: A STEAM Activity HERE
  • 3 Creative Ways to Introduce STEAM Activities HERE
  • STEAM Design Challenge: Kinetic Wind Sculptures HERE
  • Team Challenges: How and Why I Implemented This in my Classroom HERE

2. Collaborate!

Focusing on a large collaborative art project can take time and energy, but the result itself can be worth the wait. In addition to providing opportunities for teamwork, these large scale projects can be wonderful opening day displays for the beginning of the next year.

  • Create a Mural: Check out this Pinterest Board HERE
  • Paint Rocks and Create a Path Around Your School. Find an example at Bored Panda, “Every Student From This Elementary School Had To Paint One Rock In His Own Style, And Here’s The Result” HERE
  • Create a Collaborative Grid Portrait of Teachers and Administrators for the next year. Find out how HERE at Teach Kids Art.

3. Go Outside!

Embrace the sunshine and foster students’ need for play with activities that can be done outdoors.

  • Do Observational Drawings from Nature
  • Use Objects found in nature to create sculptures
  • Try Messy Activities Like…
    • Pendulum Paintings HERE
    • Lava Lamps HERE
    • Water Balloon Painting HERE

4. Write!

Create postcards of encouragement or advice for other students. These can be addressed to the students coming in next year or for someone over the summer. The postcards can be addressed to teachers from previous years or administrators.


  • Provides Student Feedback
  • Uses Design Skills with Technology or with Visual Art Skills
  • Works on Letter Writing

5. Plug In!

Sometimes it is good to end the year with some technology play and educational roundups.

  • Gamestar Mechanic: Find out more about it HERE.
    • This is a wonderful way to end the year. It is a video game creation program on the computer that is sure to entertain those restless kiddos.
  • Kahoot!: Find out more about it HERE
    • Have students pair up and create a Kahoot! for their classmates.
  • Infographics: Find out more about them HERE
    • Design an Infographic about the content you learned in class this year. Maybe it could outline for future students what the class is all about.

The end of the year can be crazy busy and a little like herding cats, but hopefully with these 5 ideas to stay engaged can allow everyone involved to sail into a happy summer vacation.

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.