Make the end of the school year extra special for your
– and their teachers – with these fun projects.
Make the end of the school year extra special for your children – and their teachers – with these fun projects.

Scrapbook on a Disk

For the past several years, the Caldwells of Tarpon Springs, Fla., have made digital scrapbooks for their teachers.

“I used to be an elementary school teacher, and I would have loved to get a compilation of photos to look back on and enjoy,” says mom Kim. Throughout the school year, Kim takes pictures at class events and gathers photos from other parents. Right before summer vacation, Chelsea, 11, and Andrew, 9, each pick out a special song for their class and create a disk case with the year, their grade and a drawing. (We used a collection of class photos for our example.) Then Kim and her husband, Sean, load the images onto their computer and make them into slide shows set to the kids’ chosen songs. (They use Sony Vegas software.) The disks are given on the last day of school so the whole class can watch them.

“Several teachers, amid their smiles and tears, have said it is the best gift they’ve ever gotten,” says Kim.

Class Cookbook

Susan Gronblom of Princeton, Mass., cooked up a great thank-you gift for her son’s first-grade teacher: a class cookbook made from an 8- by 8-inch top-loading scrapbook. She gave each student in the class a piece of scrapbook paper and asked him or her to write a favorite family recipe on one side and a thank-you note to the teacher on the other.

“Each family did something different,” says Susan. “Some parents typed up a recipe the teacher could actually use, while others had their kids write their own. The variety in the recipes gave the book a lot of character.”

When the pages were returned, Susan slipped them into the scrapbook and filled any blank pages with photos from class events. She also made a bookmark by tying cooking-themed metal charms onto a ribbon, which she glued to the inside of the cover.

“The book cost less than $10 to make,” she says. “The best thing is that you can collect the pages up until the last day of school, and then just slip them into the plastic sleeves.”

Personalized Stationery

Last year, the Markey kids of Northampton, Mass., took note of their teachers’ hard work and made them homemade notepads. To start, mom Ann (FamilyFun’s creative director) halved several 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheets of paper by drawing a faint pencil line down the middle. Then Nat, 7, and Sarah, 5, wrote a teacher’s name across the top of each half-sheet with a marker. When they were done, she took the papers to a copy shop and had them made into 5 1/2 – by 8 1/2-inch pads.

For an added personal touch, “I asked the kids to write a message or draw on the top sheet of each pad,” says Ann. “They were inexpensive and easy to make.”

For a set of note cards that’s just as sweet, choose a colorful piece of artwork your child created in the teacher’s class and scan the artwork into your computer. Reduce the image to fit a blank notecard, print multiple copies on vellum paper, and then mount the paper on the cards.

School-Year Finish Line

Each year on the last day of school, Dini Merz of Cheshire, Conn., tapes banners that say “Welcome to Summer!” across two doors leading into her house. When Asha, 11, and Nina, 8, come home, they each get to crash through a banner to symbolize the official start of summer vacation.

“The kids love it,” says Dini. “Summer can get boring, so it’s nice to start it off with a bang.”

To make the event even sweeter, Dini usually bakes them a cake in the shape of a broken pencil, which the girls take outside to share with the other kids in the neighborhood.

Try this similar cake from

You will need:

  • 8-inch square pan of brownies, uncut

  • Sandwich bag

  • 1 3/4 cups white frosting

  • 1/4 cup chocolate frosting

  • Yellow and pink food coloring

Step 1: Turn the cooled pan of brownies upside down and tap on the bottom to remove the brownie square. Cut it and arrange the two largest pieces into a pencil shape.

Step 2: Cover the pointed end with white frosting. Tint 1 cup of frosting yellow, then spread it over the middle of the cake.

Step 3: Next, tint 1/2 cup pink for the eraser. Pipe on a chocolate frosting zigzag and pencil point using a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off.

Step 4: For an added effect, set the pencil on a piece of foam core decorated to look like lined paper and pipe on a chocolate frosting message.

Bus Stop Cool-Off

In what seems to be a nationwide trend, a number of parents told us they start summer vacation with a blast of cold water aimed squarely at their kids.

  • For the past several years, on the last day of school Julie O’Hern and the other moms in her Wall Township, N.J., neighborhood have gathered at the bus stop by Julie’s house to spray their kids with water as they get off the bus.

“It’s a much-anticipated event,” says Julie. After surviving the parental ambush, she says, “the kids hunt for the buckets of water balloons that we’ve hidden in the yard, and anything goes!”

  • The Moore-Gordon family of Bothell, Wash., has a similar tradition.

“When the kids were smaller, we would buy a new inflatable swimming pool on the last day of school,” says mom Mary-Leah. “When they outgrew the largest pool that would fit on our deck, I had to think of something new. So a few years ago my then 5-year-old son, Harrison, and I bought water guns and Super Soakers, which we filled with water and put in the bushes near the bus stop. When my older kids got off the bus, Harrison and I soaked them on their way down the street! Each child grabbed a water gun and a huge water fight ensued. It was a great way to welcome in the summer.”

A Bucket of Summer Fun

The Snyder kids – Taylor, 14, and Braden, 10 – of Katy, Texas, have lots to look forward to in the summer, thanks to a bucket of fun they get from their mom, Bonda. For the past few years she’s filled a beach bucket (top right) with art supplies, sidewalk chalk, books, a DVD and a gift card to a local ice-cream store. She also includes homemade coupons for lunch with Dad, biking to the pool, a kid-planned dinner, a trip to the library, and other special (and usually free) activities.

“The coupons are for things the kids would want to do anyway,” says Bonda, “but writing them helps me focus on our summer, and lets the kids be part of the planning.”

T-shirt mementos

Nine-year-old Zachary Contorno of Hoover, Ala., loves to show off his artwork, so his mom came up with this hip way to do just that.

“At the end of every year, my children come home with a stack of art projects,” says mom Diana. “Because they work so hard on each piece, they don’t just want to file them away with their schoolwork. So we pick our favorite, scan it into the computer, and print it on iron-on transfer paper. This way the kids can wear their favorite art anytime.”

Zac loves the results, she says.

“He wore the shirt he made in kindergarten for two years straight! It’s too tight now, but he still asks to wear it.”

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