Curriculum Approaches

Wrapping Up the Year in Your Choice-Based Classroom

clay center closed

When transitioning to choice, material management can seem overwhelming. Without some help and an early start, it’s easy to get caught with a big mess on your hands at the end of the year.

Instead of giving up your summer, here are some tips to help you wrap up your choice-based year with ease.

Roll Back Centers

Tackling cleanup in a choice classroom all at one time can seem like an unimaginable task. If your choice classroom has a variety of media available, begin to roll choices back as the year comes to a close.

Here are 6 specific tips for how to close centers smoothly.

  • Make a plan to roll back one center every week. Check your calendar and make a solid plan so you don’t run out of time!
  • Post closing dates around the room to keep yourself accountable and students aware.
  • Begin by preparing students a few weeks before the closing of a center. This allows students to not only finish artwork but to mentally prepare for their favorite station to close.

closed sign on painting center

  • Roll back media in the opposite order you rolled it out at the beginning of the year. Start with the messiest centers, like clay, and work backward until only drawing is open on the last workday.
  • Once a center closes, make sure it’s not visible to students. This could mean covering it up until you have time to get to it.
  • Schedule some time during your prep to dismantle centers and put items into storage. This is a great time to take inventory for the upcoming year!

Elicit the Help of Students

Students feel more ownership over a choice studio if they take part in its upkeep. During the last few class periods, create studio-care stations where students can help you pack up or prep for the next year. Play some music or an art movie, and don’t forget to invite parent volunteers in to help with more difficult tasks.

Students especially love cutting, washing, testing materials, and organizing! Make sure to give kids concrete examples of how you want the job done.

Here are some tasks students can take on in each center:

Drawing Center

  • Test markers and Sharpies. (Have students remove caps on dead markers to keep for next year’s sculpture center!)
  • Sharpen pencils and colored pencils.
  • Clean chalk and oil pastels on scrap paper.
  • Wipe down and box up drawing books, observational drawing tools, mirrors etc.
  • Wipe down dirty, dusty containers.

Collage Center

  • Cut large rolls of contact paper or collage paper into smaller more manageable pieces to use next year.
  • Test and toss glue sticks.
  • Wipe down gluey scissors, stencils, rulers, and additional tools.
  • Refill staplers.


  • Deep clean and organize brushes for summer storage. Let kids know what you want to keep and what can go in the toss pile.
  • Refill and wipe down watercolor pans.
  • Combine paint bottles.
  • Wash dried paint on mixing palettes.
  • Shake bottles of paint to prevent settling.
  • Wipe down counters and storage areas.
  • Organize paint by colors.


  • Precut cardboard into squares.
  • Dump sculpture material storage and throw out or recycle anything used or gluey.
  • Wipe down counters, storage boxes, glue guns (unplugged), and tools.
  • Organize donations by color or material type.


  • Untangle and rewrap yarn.
  • Precut cardboard looms, burlap, or fabric pieces.


  • Deep clean and organize clay tools.
  • Clean out slip containers and storage boxes.
  • Mix glazes to prevent settling.
  • Wipe down counters and tables.

Many hands make light work! Make sure to bill this cleanup in the most exciting way possible so students feel pumped to help out. Even the most apathetic students can find some fun in being given responsibility and a novel task.

clay center closed

Let the Excess Stuff Go

Running a choice classroom can often mean becoming a bit of a hoarder. Recycled materials can begin to take over your life. The end of the year is a great time to start fresh and let go of some of those extra boxes of stuff you haven’t used in five years.

Time is your most useful commodity as an art teacher, so don’t be too precious with things. If you can’t find a specific use for it or organizing it is going to take too much of your time, donate it or dump it! Need motivation? Watch for a special resource coming in June to help you let go of some excess stuff you’ve been holding on to!

Having a choice classroom shouldn’t burn you out or overwhelm you – at least not 100% of the time! By starting early, getting some help, and keeping it simple, you can feel better equipped to walk out the door on the last day!

How do you wrap up your choice art room at the end of the year?

What’s your biggest tip for end of the year cleanup?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Kelly Phillips

Kelly Phillips is an elementary school art educator and a former AOEU Writer. They strive to create an environment where all students can become independent, self-directed risk-takers.

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