Authentic Project Ideas – Inventing a New Game

Basketball

One of the best games I ever played was a game that several fifth-graders had invented.  It involved shooting a basket, then running a diamond backwards, jumping rope… I don’t remember all of the things you had to do to score, but it was a blast!  (And I came in last – no surprise.)

Making up rules for a new game is a great authentic project. The project can involve reading (reading about other games and rules to get ideas), writing (recording the rules, and editing after you follow the rules to see if they covered everything), and math (developing a scoring system).

With social distancing and other limits to what kids normally play, it is a great time to invent a new game that can be played and enjoyed with the limitations currently in place.

Stay Safe!

Teaching Environmental Responsibility Authentically- Protecting Our Environment

FactoryQuiltQUILT BY CHRIS STAVER

The last two months have been a fascinating look at what happens to our planet when we cause less pollution.  Photos of Venice and the clean water are astounding.  Pictures of the clean sky over Los Angeles – amazing.  Animals coming back to their old habitats.  All of this in just a few months.

Obviously, at some point we will all re-emerge and begin to interact more with our environment.  But maybe some good will come out of this and we will do it a little more responsibly.  We have certainly seen how quickly our planet can begin to recover from some of the damage caused by humans.

I have written about several project ideas that have a theme of protecting and cleaning up our environment.  Teaching children how to learn and think authentically is something I am obviously passionate about.  We also need to take a good, hard look at what we are doing to our planet, and what we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren.  What better way to cover both than an authentic project about our environment.  And the timing, with what is currently happening in our world, is perfect for this authentic exploration.

There are some really neat organizations out there that are making a big difference in cleaning up our environment.  For example, 4ocean sells bracelets made of beads from plastic pulled out of the ocean (a huge environmental problem).  For every bracelet they sell they pull a pound of plastic from the ocean.

There are many other grassroots organizations, businesses, and charities that are making a huge difference.  Most started as a simple project. (Read about the start of 4ocean, it is an interesting story.)  A really cool authentic project could be to develop a new way or idea to clean up, or prevent pollution, on our planet.  Who knows…this project may become something that makes a difference.

Stay Safe!

Teaching Authentically, Staying Authentic

Chicken

I had this photo in my file of posts to write, and I realized that the timing was perfect to work on this topic.  Children are hearing lots of things on television about a meat shortage.  This just adds to their concerns (and ours) about what is happening in our world.  While my original topic was going to be to explore organic and free-range food sources, I think a better topic might be what our options are for food today.

My original prompts for authentic exploration were as follows:  Many stores advertise that their meats are organic or free range.  There are also many other claims markets make.  What exactly does organic mean?  Free range? Are there benefits to one over the other?  Is there a better way to raise livestock?  Are companies really honest about this?  How is this enforced? This may lead to an authentic project on ranching, farming, or even the pros and cons of being a vegetarian  (and how is that different from veganism).

So, take this topic and incorporate what is happening in our world today. What are our options for food today.  The reason I am totally committed to authentic learning and projects is because it approaches education in a real and current way.  Adjusting a lesson/project to address current events – well you can’t get much more authentic than that!

Stay Well, Stay Healthy

Teaching Authentically On Line

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Since March we have been meeting on Zoom with our granddaughter every day, trying to cover kindergarten concepts.  Working with a five-year-old on Zoom is definitely not the easiest way to teach.  I have no idea how teachers are managing to work with several at the same time.

We immediately started to work with her on projects, but struggled with maintaining her interest and attention through several lessons, until it hit me like a lightening bolt to practice what I preach and teach authentically.  This did not mean to let her run away with the lesson, it meant to incorporate her passions into what I wanted to accomplish academically.

Her current passions are Unicorns, Alicorns, and Mermalicorns –  that is a Mermaid-Unicorn with wings, in case you didn’t know that.  (In one of our first Zoom session, I mentioned that Unicorns were not real.  I believe I will be forgiven for that comment in about a century or so.)

Once we started incorporating her love of unicorns into our lessons, they took off.  We were able to share facts we felt were important, practice spelling, and counting, and just plain have fun working with her.  She introduced new aspects to our authentic lessons that expanded what we were able to accomplish. She even informed us during a recent lesson, that mermaids are pretend, but we should still put one in our drawing we were making about what lived in the ocean.  (I am not touching the unicorn reality subject again, I can be taught!)

At the end of a recent lesson, she announced that she wanted to talk about cameras (this was a reference to the camera that took a photo of her and her baby brother with Santa last December).  We had a wonderful authentic conversation about cameras, practiced more spelling, did some math (photo size, age of cameras of the past), and drew pictures of cameras.  (My picture was judged to be the best by her, out of pity for me, I have zero drawing skills.)

In hindsight, I am stunned that I did not start out immediately by working with her authentically, using her interests to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish with her.  After all, I blog about this every week, and it is my passion.  But throwing Zoom into the mix threw me.  I will definitely admit it is not as easy as teaching in person.  Being authentic is definitely harder when you are not authentically there.  But going authentic has changed the impact and productivity of our lessons in a 100% positive way.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy!

Authentic Does Not Mean Perfect

Gramma

This is a masterpiece that was done for me by my five-year-old granddaughter.  (I am not biased at all – it is a masterpiece worthy of a museum!)

What I love about this, besides the fact that it was done by her, is that it is not perfect.  Somewhere along the way we lost the learning process in our strive for perfection.  And as educators we got that message out loud and clear that we were striving for perfect “A+” work.

But when you are pushing perfection, you are looking at the end product, not the journey that got you there.  And if the educational journey has to be perfect, you eliminate risk taking and you eliminate authenticity.

Our greatest learning experiences come from the process, not the final product.  My granddaughter is learning how to write and spell.  Her work isn’t perfect.  But she is sounding out words and writing down what she hears.  She loves to do this.  She has been praised for her attempts, so she keeps at it, and keeps learning.  Sometimes she asks for help, sometimes she doesn’t.  Sometimes she is given a gentle nudge if she is stuck.

And if you can’t read “kindergarten,” this masterpiece, which hangs proudly on my refrigerator (not in a museum, but after posting it I expect to hear from the National Art Gallery) says, “This picture is for Gramma.”

 

Authentic Teaching – Budgeting

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In many families money is tight right now, and many items are hard to get even if you can afford them.  This is stressful for both adults and children.  Involving children in honest, age appropriate budget conversations is a way to not only relieve some of the stress, but also an authentic way to teach budgeting.

Even young children can do chores to earn money for what they want, based on what parents can afford.  Children can also learn about ordering on line, how credit cards work, and how long something will take to ship and be delivered.  Lots of authentic reading and math skills.  Lots of honest conversations about our current world.

Authentic Project Ideas – Sunsets

FLASunset

Why are sunsets so fascinating?  Why do people love to photograph sunsets?  What causes the different colors in the sky that we sometimes see at sunset?  What caused the ring around the sun in this photo?

Lots of authentic projects here:  researching/explaining what causes the beautiful colors we sometimes see at sunset.  Poetry about sunsets.  Creating a photo journal of sunsets…

And remember, questions and prompts are a starting point.  So, if this turns into a project about explaining that our sun is a star, that all stars are suns, how many stars we think there might be in our galaxy, how many galaxies there might be in our universe…that is authentic learning!

*I am entering this photo in our county fair this summer in the “sunrise/sunset” category.  Wish me luck!