What to do After the Tests… 3 Awesome End of Year Activities

State Testing in Over…

Now What?

The entire school year has built up to the main event- state testing. Your students have put in the work, and now all that is left is a few sweet weeks until summer. Now what?

If your students are anything like mine, the conclusion of the state tests also means the effort levels take a sharp turn down. Spring break has come and gone, the weather is changing, and the countdown until the end of the year is on everyone’s mind.

I used to scramble for ideas as to what I could do to fill the remaining time before the end of the year. Now, I rely on a solid plan of low-prep, low-cost STEM projects and challenges that keep my learners engaged and having fun during the final weeks. Many of the end-of-the-year activities can stretch an entire week!

In this blog, I will detail each of these activities and help you map out how you can keep your learners engaged at the end of the school year. Most of the STEM activities I will be explaining are available in the STEM Challenge Bundle.

Strongest Newspaper Bridge Challenge

Duration– One Week

Supplies– newspaper, masking tape, meter/yardsticks, books


  • 1. Bridges must be at least 2 feet long
  • 2. There must be an area to stack books
  • 3. No support beams extending to the ground

The concept is as simple as it sounds. For this post-state testing, end-of-the-school-year STEM challenge, students will create the strongest newspaper bridge using only the permitted supplies. This low-prep and low-cost activity incorporates engineering and design, and it also reviews the concepts of force, compression, and tension.

Before allowing my students to begin construction, we take about two class periods to review the physics and examine different bridges. We discuss which bridge designs allow for the longest distances and which design provides the most strength. My students read a comic about architecture and engineering and then conducted a web quest about the types of bridges.

My goal for the lesson is to help my learners move passed simply creating a beam bridge and incorporating shapes like triangles into their design. (Some students will still try to roll all of their paper together into a beam bridge)


The first time I tried this project in my classroom, I learned quickly if you do not put constraints on supply usage, the kids will go overboard. Initially, I did not limit the newspaper and tape usage, and as a result, I had a few groups who decided to ignore all of the design concepts in the lesson. Instead, they created a solid beam with at least three rolls of masking tape wrapped around it like a mummy. Ever since I have required my students to use the design concepts we learned about in the lesson. In addition, I maintain control of the supplies and closely monitor usage.

Another way I try to avoid lazy beam teams is to require each group to create a detailed design sketch before building. The sketches must have parts labeled and an estimate of the amount if supplies they will need.

Homemade Cellphone Speakers

Duration- 2-3 class periods

Supplies- random recyclables, tape, glue, a cellphone


  1. Students create noise-amplifying “speakers” for their cellphones.
  2. They are only allowed to use recyclables and paper. (No electronics)
  3. Cellphone use is only permitted when measuring and testing the invention

This hands-on STEM activity has always been tied to my unit on sound waves, which makes it an awesome option for keeping the learning going after state testing is done. For this project, students are challenged to create a speaker that can amplify the sound exiting their cellphone speakers. In general, the designs act as mini-megaphones similar to the cones we see cheerleaders use to amplify their voices. As a whole, this is an end-of-state-testing activity all of my students love.


I always have to place very heavy restrictions on cellphone usage (even visibility) during this activity. Most of the time, I only allow my students to reveal their devices for measurements and design testing. There are a lot of options as to how you can regulate the muddy line of using cellphones for science.

Action-Reaction Balloon Powered Cars

Duration- 1 week

Supplies- balloons, straws, rubber bands, skewers (for wheel axles), recyclables, hot glue, tape, lids


  1. Students may only use one balloon per car.
  2. Motion must be triggered by the balloon.
  3. No electronic components

Tied to Newton’s Laws of Motion, this post-state-testing activity challenges students to build a car powered by a deflating balloon. This project involves a lot of problem-solving and trial and error. Students need to research, plan, and modify their designs over and over to actually get their cars working. In my classroom, we spend at least a week, prior to the project, gathering supplies.


Most of my students’ struggles with this project are centered around the axle of the vehicles. They seem to have a solid grasp on how a deflating balloon can power a car, but the process of constructing wheels that actually work tends to be a challenge. To help with this, I created visual instructions explaining how a wheel axle works. You may want to give your students a tutorial.

Some of my students can accomplish the goal on their first try, and some struggle the entire week. As a result, I offer several ideas to challenge the students who finish early. For example, I challenge the students to create a more powerful straw or test the effects of double balloons.

At the end of the challenge, we have balloon-powered car races in the hallways. This always makes the last day of the challenge fun and competitive. This also gives some of the teams who are still behind that little extra time to finish up the project.

State Testing Wrap-up

With the projects detailed above, it will be easy for you to keep your learners engaged after the big state tests. Keeping their hands building and their minds challenged will help pass the time as the school year winds down. In the coming weeks, I will continue to add more post-state-testing activities with the hope of making it easier for you to finish off the school year strong.

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