Are end-of-year projects way to beat end-of-year exhaustion?

Since Arizona doesn’t have any snow days to worry about, we are in our last two weeks of school now. My son’s charter school has an interesting way of dealing with the last week of school — term projects. They are weeklong studies taught by regular teachers mixing grade levels. Some have more education value than others. However, it keeps the kids occupied without sending homework or letting them straight up watch TV to kill time.

Here are some examples:

  • Martial arts for 5th and 6th graders
  • Teen Shakespeare for 7th through 10th graders
  • Sci-Fi Movie Days for 6th and 7th graders (I assume there is discussion attached to the watching.)
  • School mural — 5th and 6th graders — painting a school mural
  • Digging up your roots for 7th through 10th graders — exploring their family trees
  • Motor building for 8th through 10th graders – with the science teacher
  • Perseus Past and Present — 5th through 6th graders — taught by the Latin teacher
  • Sports — 6th through 8th graders –
  • Medieval Castles for 5th graders taught by the classics teacher
  • Living Wax Museum for 6th and 7th graders — They research someone and then dress up like them
  • Chess Championship for 5th through 7th grade
  • Documentary film making or 8th through 10th
  • Creative building for 5th through 10th
  • Star Wars for 5th and 6th
  • Game shows 5th and 6th
  • Intro to Italian for 5th through 10th
  • Card Games for 7th through 10th
  • Comicon for 5th through 10th
  • Math games for 5th and 6th
  • World of Music for 5th and 6th
  • Table games for 5th through 10th

Obviously some have more educational value than other. A few had fees attached (like $20) but Walsh was trying to same me money so he only put in for the free ones. He ended up with table games, which may not be a bad thing. He hates to lose so maybe it will be good to practice in a school setting.

I forgot to mention they also are cutting the school day short the whole last week. They are starting school about 55 minutes later and getting out at 1:25 instead of 2:45 p.m. Walsh in thrilled. His sisters who are on a different schedule are not. (The school will still obviously hit their required number of learning hours but I have no idea how this is all working out.)

So what do you think about the idea of mixed-grade projects for the last week of school? What do you think about shortening the days?

25 comments Add your comment

Sk8ing Momma

May 12th, 2014
9:00 pm

I love the projects! It’s too bad that they’re only reserved for the end of the year. It sounds as if many have great value. It’s about time to see a traditional school think out of the box — or beyond teaching to the test!

I think that shortening the days could be a nightmare for parents, specifically those for whom coordinating drop off and pick up would be a challenge. Prior to being a full-time SAHM, I worked outside of the home and any change to my childcare arrangements reeked havoc…Grr! Hopefully, parents will be able to easily accommodate the time changes.


May 12th, 2014
10:00 pm

Pretty cool! The Atlanta Girls School used to have a “mid-winter session”, a one or two week period after the Christmas holidays and mid-January where they did something similar –several non-traditional topics that the girls could explore in-depth for a week or two.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2014
10:29 pm

Sk*ing Momma — they have early and late care for those odd times — so you could still drop off and get to school — we have a mom that is driving our carpool in later — and I will pick up earlier


May 13th, 2014
5:30 am

Wow! Take a week off with no work (I can’t do that) and then put a lousy blog out for Monday followed by Tuesday’s post which is decent because of no cut-and-paste.

If I was a parent of a kid who was taking Theresa’s class and monitored her content I would seriously want my money back and question the nature of higher education.


May 13th, 2014
5:38 am

What a great idea! I have some special things I do at the end of the year, but this is so much better!

Sk8ing Momma

May 13th, 2014
6:50 am


That’s good news about the before and after care! What a relief for working parents. It’s nice that the school district thought about that in advance!

Hey, Bertha...

May 13th, 2014
8:07 am

…you related to one of the Butt sisters – Bertha Butt?


May 13th, 2014
8:10 am

Honestly, I would LOVE it if my children’s school was doing something like this. It seems like since CRCTs finished, they’ve done NOTHING. This week there is Field Day each day (broken up by grade level), which means the other grades have an adjusted schedule and THAT translates to extra recess, less instruction time, etc.

Next week, Monday is the only full day of school. Tuesday is early release as is Wednesday, their last day of school.

The kids have brought home NO work, have had zero homework and aren’t even taking spelling tests, math quizzes…no tests of any kind. It’s as if all instruction ceased the minute they began CRCTs.

I would MUCH rather the kids stay in school until the end of this month, actually learning. Then not start school until mid to late August, instead of the August 4th start date.

But hey…I live in Cobb…I”m sure by this time next year, our dutiful school board will have changed the school calendar, yet again. Sigh.


May 13th, 2014
8:53 am

My son is in 7th grade at Inman Middle (APS), It’s been business as usual since CRCT was over. I thought they would skate into the end of the year but they haven’t. He’s had a math project and now he’s working on a science project.

Personally, I am a proponent in the time-honored tradition of skating through the last month of school. I grew up going to private school and we had our own version of yearly testing (different state, too). And after it was over there was minimal homework and no projects for the rest of the year. Then there was a final exam week. And finals were always easy compared to midterms.

So, I wish my son had that. But he’s got a more rigorous education than I had.

He’s definitely looking forward to summer.


May 13th, 2014
9:01 am

Many of these projects sound great. When I was teaching, I would do things like take the books we had read and then find the movie. We would do debates and comparison writings. Let me tell you kids can be brutal about the changes. We had written and oral debates that went on for whole class periods. I got some of the best writing from them because they were so passionate about how they felt about the book or movie. They also wanted to REALLY convince each other about the way they saw things. They learned to argue without fighting and to look at things from other’s perspectives. They also did research to find information to better support their written comparisons or side of a debate.


May 13th, 2014
11:06 am

@TLH I am in Cobb too. Must depend on the school. The Middle School is in the process of collecting text books right now. 8th grade has a major test in math this week (much like a final), Language has a final this week, Science had 2 projects (one last week and a rocket on Monday), Field Day was last week Thursday the same as the Orchestra Concert, English had a test last Friday on Divergent, there is a DBQ today in Social Studies. The next few days there are a few assignments mostly in class, and the rest of tying up loose ends. Monday is the picnic for the 8th grade and Wednesday is the talent show… At some point they will hand out yearbooks and let the kids sign those…and that is important.

Elementary school still has had tests. There is a decade project (they research the decade and do a presentation), she still had spelling as of last week. Again, they are collecting the text books this week. Next week the 5th grade has a picnic. Wednesday is the 5th grade walk (and I need a huge box of tissues already…I never knew I would miss this….I HATED most of our ES career!…..but I find myself actually sad to be leaving it behind). They too will have yearbook signing time. Plus a pool party after “graduation”.

Only the HS students (who have finals starting Friday) will have all the real studying…Local HS Final Schedule: 1st period exam Friday…rest of day class as usual. Monday 2nd and 4th period exams, Tuesday 3rd and 5th period, Wednesday 6th and 7th. Plus the 12th grade has all the graduation hoopla to do!

For the younger kids do you really want them studying to the last day of school? Through the end of this week absolutely!

At our old elemtary school in Fulton….the 3rd grade did “Camp” the last days of school. Every room had tents set up…and they got a shoe box from their parents that had mail. treats, and so on…they did play games but much of them were based on remembering what they had done all year. My older child did this program and still has her shoebox. They did NOTHING like this in our current school and it always made me sad (one of the things I won’t miss).

@ Witchy…my oldest has had the read the book then see the movie the last few days of school/term in her Middle School career. They just read Divergent and when she was done I took her to see the movie…she was very passionate about why the book was better…I think it really helped her focus more on the book for her tests and she did very well on them. She saw City of Bones before reading the book, and because she thinks Jamie Campbell is cute she loves the movie. However she really got into the book so much she read them all! SHe is very quick to say the book did this better, or that makes no sense in the movie because they don’t explain it! Not everyone will read the book you know! (This from the kid who faught me about reading any book if a movie was out-lol).


May 13th, 2014
11:23 am

What’s your favorite beer?
I’m going through a bit of Mexican phase at the moment. I guess I’m excited about Summer around the corner….Negra Modelo.

Hidden Agenda

May 13th, 2014
1:00 pm

Good homechool parents treat everything as a learning opportunity (kind of like life should be). I guess Mr. Zuckerberg learned his $100 million lesson the hard way about the government school system. When is everyone else going to learn?


May 13th, 2014
1:30 pm

@Hidden Agende – good parents, no matter where their kids go to school, treat everything as a learning opportunity. Most people, home school or government school or private school, don’t feel the need to talk about every single detail about how awesome they are when the topic isn’t about them.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 13th, 2014
2:11 pm

Hey Guys — The AJC has put us on a new content management system and the blog is migrating to a new URL. We will post back and for a few days to help people find it but it is up live now. Here is the new URL for the blog:


May 13th, 2014
2:50 pm

Wondered when they would move you over to the newer system. Guess I won’t bother with an additional “me” login so I will show up as GrantD — See all of you over there…

K's Mom

May 13th, 2014
2:54 pm

@iRun, bravo and well said. If you feel led to and capable of homeschooling your kids, well whatever blows your dress up. My little guys are in preschool and love their teachers who provide them with a different learning experience than I can.

On topic, I think this is a great idea. I especially like that they mix the grade levels. I think that would be beneficial for all involved. Too bad they save it all for the end of school. It might be really cool if they could do something like this quarterly.


May 13th, 2014
3:07 pm

@Bertha: Sorry, I had to laugh at your post, “If I was a parent of a kid who was taking Theresa’s class and monitored her content I would seriously want my money back and question the nature of higher education.”

One, I cannot imagine being the parent of a college student and “monitoring” their teachers’ blogs. Really? Really? If so, you take helicopter parenting to a new level.

Secondly, do you really think that this little blog is the sum total of T’s journalistic endeavors, and is what she bases her entire college curriculum on? If so, you have a very strange view of academia.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 13th, 2014
3:49 pm

I am thrilled to finally be in the new system — they are switching over a bunch. The new WordPress has so many great functions and it’s one I teach to the college students. I will finally be able to use the new embed codes on You Tube and other videos and it will finally size the photos without having to drag through Photoshop first. Also I believe I will be able to do rotating photo galleries and I finally have back the ability to schedule posts. That function hasn’t worked in a year. So super duper excited about new system!!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 13th, 2014
3:51 pm

DB did you send contact name to gmail acct??? I haven’t been in that acct in so long due to spam from pr folks — tell me if it’s there. OK if you didn’t send because we did get names but another could help others.


May 13th, 2014
7:17 pm

@TLH and @FCM: In Cobb as well. Field Day for elementary and still some testing for Middle Schoolers, plus “Olympics.” I was told the elementary students would have no more homework, but they do have a spelling test this week so at least they are on the hook for something. It seems like they are so concerned about losing time to snow days for CRCT, but then the last couple of weeks it’s a free-for-all type environment.


May 13th, 2014
7:18 pm

@DB: You said what I wanted to say to @Bertha, so thank you for that.


May 14th, 2014
9:10 am

TWG the new format is not user friendly on comments to my computer…ie I have to download software and cannot do that on here. I will think about downloading it to my mobile phone but since I have limited data on that…..well it will probably be rare that I am posting.

I stopped posting on Maureen’s blog for similar reasons.

It has been a great run talking with everyone here…for the past 9 years

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 15th, 2014
12:22 pm

Hey FCM — that is a bummer — I am talking to technology people today at 11 so I will ask about that — and see if there is a way around that or what is the deal —- I don’t like that at all!!! I have no choice about the migration but that is a bummer — I will get back to you —-

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 15th, 2014
3:13 pm

FCM — The tech people say you shouldn’t have to download any technology or software. You just have to create an account is all. And I still think you can use your same screen name as long as not taken.