I am in the process of “scrapbooking” the 67 counties of the State of Pennsylvania. I started this project when COVID-19 hit our shores. It seemed a safe way to get out and explore, learning more about our state in day trips, or spending the night in hotels and beds and breakfasts that were following safety guidelines. It kept us in Pennsylvania and close to home. It also was a way for us to, in a small way, help local businesses that were struggling to survive the pandemic.
We are fortunate that we live in the center of a rectangular state – literally in Centre County – and can pretty much get anywhere in the state in a few hours.
This has been an amazing experience in authentic learning. I am understanding so much more about the geography of our state. We have lived here for five years, but really had a limited understanding of what was around us. This has also forced us to dig deep in some counties to find something interesting to do, but if you dig, you will find that authentic experience!
You also need to listen to those you meet. Really listen – like listening to your students regarding what interests them.
In one bed and breakfast, the owner had a collection of wonderful gourds on display. She told us about a gourd factory in a neighboring county and that became our destination for that county.
On a recent trip, only one hour north of where we live, the waitress in a restaurant showed us pictures of elk in her front yard. She told us which road to drive home on, and we thought what the heck, although we were skeptical and figured she was just lucky to capture that photo. We were stunned and blown away by the number of wild elk we encountered on the drive she suggested, and yes the elk were in people’s yards!
Scrapbooking has been a great way for me to present this project. There are other ways I could have done this, but I love scrapbooking, so this worked for me. I actually didn’t formally have to do anything as a product, as I am a tad old for school assignments, but this was a lot more fun than checking off a list, and I think being authentic has become so internalized I can’t turn it off anymore! Authentic experiences are engaging and you learn! I have learned so much about Pennsylvania and we have only visited 23 of the 67 counties in our state.
I honestly knew nothing about elk, and can’t say that I cared, but have now spent hours researching and learning about his amazing and majestic animal. We are actually planning another trip up north soon to see more elk, postponing a planned shopping trip in another county that is now reopening. Me postponing a shopping trip, truly amazing! The world has finally stopped spinning!