A culminating event is when students share the product or result of their investigation, receive feedback, and celebrate their learning. Students are actively involved in the planning of the culmination. They decide what to make, how to present the information and who to invite. Instead of taking a test that asks them to recall information, they are synthesizing ideas and building on what they’ve learned to create something new. Students demonstrate their learning with either a product, performance or presentation. Allowing the students to choose how and what they will present, gives teachers the opportunity to asses the learning preferences of their students as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Culminating events have several benefits for young children. Presenting information to others is motivating for students and can take learning deeper. As students review what they have learned and done, they remember experiences, synthesize information and determine which aspects are the most important to share with others. They must also create and follow a plan. While this may seem like a simple skill, it is not one that is innate in many children. They are by nature impulsive. To ask them to slow down, create a plan, and then follow through on the plan is a skill that must be taught.
Culminating events also provide an opportunity for teamwork and collaboration. Students must learn to work together to accomplish goals. Each child will have a certain role during the culmination, one child cannot do everything, and so children must analyze themselves to determine what they are most interested in and what role to take in presenting it. Not all students’ ideas are feasible. They must determine what can be accomplished and cannot. Students must also learn to weigh conflicting ideas and choose one to move forward with instead of trying everyone’s ideas. This requires the ability to let go of one’s own ideas and to consider the perspective of others.
In addition, the students gain real world experience in using language skills to get ideas across clearly. We begin in our youngest learners, coaching them to be comfortable talking in front of others. As the children grow, their presentation skills develop and they begin to have more complex oral presentations.
There is also a sense of excitement that builds leading up to the culmination. This excitement can be seen not just in the students but in their parents as well. We believe that knowledge is to be celebrated. Therefore, as we come to the end of a project or inquiry, we want to celebrate the new knowledge that we have gained.
For this Project Week, early childhood classes have been studying a different aspect of our community in light of our school’s overarching theme of The Great Chicago Fire. Each class has selected a different way to demonstrate their acquired knowledge. Our three half-day students have transformed their classroom into a fire station. They will lead their parents on a tour of the fire station as well as teach them about the different vehicles found in a fire station and the clothing and equipment that firefighters use. The five day class has studied the materials and construction of homes. They have chosen to build model homes and will be presenting those to their parents along with the steps and materials necessary for home building. Our junior kindergarten focused on commerce as they studied stores in our neighborhood and then opened their very own donut shop. And our kindergarteners have researched the elevated train system of Chicago. They have turned their classroom into a train platform and have also constructed train cars to teach others about our transit system.