May 18, 2017
Holding a celebration at the end of a project or program session can accomplish several things:
• Give staff and students something fun to look forward to.
• Provide an opportunity to review, reflect on and demonstrate the learning that occurred.
• Make meaning from the learning by planning a celebration that’s also an authentic assessment for students — and for your program.
What does “authentic” mean in this context? Perhaps you’re more accustomed to a similar term: “real world.” You hear that term a lot in the out-of-school time field. Real-world learning is the complement to traditional, classroom-based learning. Instead of listening to lectures and reading text, real-world learning generally has students construct their own learning paths in response to real-world problems or situations. Rather than passively receiving information compiled by experts and educators, students become explorers and experimenters.
Does your program use project-based learning, STEM explorations, citizen science or other active approaches to learning? These authentic learning experiences can be celebrated in authentic, real-world ways. Successful celebrations happen when they’re tied to learning goals and planned accordingly.
The following tips can help you provide meaning and rewards for students, while also gathering valuable information to inform your program’s continuous improvement process. (See Five Steps to Continuous Improvement for more information.)
- Design early, and plan with the end in mind. This party has a purpose: tie the celebration to the learning goals of your major theme or activity.
- Give students choice and voice. Whether they work individually or in teams, guide students to appropriate demonstrations of learning that also reflect their interests. For some students, this may be making a video. For others, it may be writing and performing a play, creating a diagram that teaches others about a process, or contributing to a project conducted by professional scientists or historians.
- Get input from parents and program partners. Know about the community needs and values your activities should address.
- Market your event. A real-world audience for the culminating event has value for your students, the community and your program. Plan the event’s timing and content to encourage participation.
- Make it an opportunity to reflect. Your staff and students will do a lot of hard work during the program term, so help them see the value of that work in the demonstration of results.
The Y4Y Project-Based Learning course offers examples of ways to structure culminating events and ideas about marketing your event. Also, the Y4Y Summer Learning course has tips for planning a culminating event. (Go to the Implementation Strategies section, click on “Menu” in the top-right navigation bar, and select Step 8.)
Here are other resources to explore for ideas about celebrating student learning:
• Culminating Projects at Reading Rockets
• The FUN Factor: Culminating Events in Physical Education
Y4Y Discussion: Learning Celebrations
What has your program done to celebrate the completion of learning events?
• Maybe your students prepared a meal for a family open house at the end of nutrition/cooking project.
• Perhaps students wrote and performed a play about the life cycle of monarch butterflies after your summer citizen science program.
Please share your celebratory stories with peers and the Y4Y team on this discussion board. Our team members will check in, respond and prompt during the week of May 18 to May 31.