How can we make the last days of school memorable?

My wonderful G12 students leave this week and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this massive transition and what we can do to really make those last few days super memorable and enjoyable for them.

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The plants are a nod to my ChemJungle youtube channel 🙂

I always felt like I was one of those people who “embraced change” – after all I’ve changed country, continent, job, house and friends more times than most… The more I think about it, the more I realise that I love planning for change, but the execution I definitely don’t like so much. For example, my graduation from university was supposed to be a super exciting day to celebrate 4 years of hard work and the start of the next phase of my life. To say I hated it would be a massive understatement; I felt angry, I wouldn’t let my mum take any pictures of me (the poor woman!) and I didn’t enjoy the day at all. Instead of reflecting on the incredible experiences, being grateful for the people I’d met and the person that I’d become I was completely consumed by the fear of what was next.

Recently I’ve read the “Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath (if you haven’t read this book then I 100% recommend it!) and the cogs have been turning in my brain ever since. They summarise the 4 key features of making a moment memorable as:

  • Elevation: breaking the script – doing something unexpected
  • Insight: changing the way that we see the world/ourselves in the world
  • Pride: giving recognition and finding milestones to celebrate
  • Connection: sharing our moment with others

But the key take away for me is not the features but the fact that we can synthesise these moments, and create memorable experiences for others (and for ourselves!).

“We can be the designers of moments that deliver elevation and insight and pride and connection. These exceptional minutes and hours and days—they are what make life meaningful. And they are ours to create.”

The Grade 12s are leaving high school tomorrow and it’s a big deal for them. Many of our students will be changing schools, country, continent, home and friends in the next few months and the school does a great job of making their last day a celebration; pranks day, assemblies (with and without parents), visiting early years classes and the final grand walk – the entire cohort led by a samba band through the entire 3000+ strong school community. There are so many examples of elevation, insight, pride and connection within those events that I wouldn’t even know where to start!

Whilst the memorable moments for the school community were fairly easy to spot, creating that moment for my own G12 Chemistry students is something I’ve always struggled with. Bringing cupcakes, doing quizzes and even roasting marshmallows on bunsen burners doesn’t really feel special enough. I don’t feel like those are the things my students are going to remember in a few years time…

This year this is what I did to try to make it more of a “moment” for my students

  1. Trying to “break the script” – I created a kahoot quiz which was all about them and scenarios from the lab over the last 2 years eg. who is most likely to ruin a titration? who is most likely to turn a pH curve into a cat? THEY LOVED IT (even if they disagreed with some of the answers!). I’m considering how I could make this into something they could keep for the future – ideas welcome!
  2. They created their university destinations posters to go around my classroom – my kids are utterly mesmorised by these and I love the way it shows that you don’t need to study science at university to study chemistry at IB. It really gives the “I want to be on the wall one day…” feelings 🙂

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    Here’s an example if I had one!

  3. We also created a legacy wall of advice – this was new for me and every student wrote pearls of wisdom for future generations of chemistry students. I was hoping this helped them to really think about what they’d learned over the past 2 years and how they’d grown to become incredible chemists.img_0025.jpg
  4. Not strictly something I did, but my marvellous students brought an ice cream cake for my gluten free needs and also made me a quiz to show me how much random knowledge they had gained about what gluten was. They made this moment so much more memorable for me by ‘breaking the script’ by going completely above and beyond what I expected. Still gives me warm and fuzzy feelings now!IMG_4861

I’ve found thinking about the 4 features of memorable moments really helpful when trying to plan stuff that will hopefully be more meaningful for my students than simply stuffing their faces with cake.

How do you create a memorable “end of the year” experience for your classes?

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