We Pause for an Authentic Station Identification

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This is my 100th post!  I started this blog over a year ago to promote my first children’s book.  That is the total, honest truth. But being authentic to myself, the purpose of the blog quickly changed.

I live in a retirement community near a major university.  Many of the people in my neighborhood are retired professors and savvy about the book publishing and promotion world.  When my first book came out, the women in my knitting group told me I needed a presence on the web to promote my book. They told me I needed to start a blog.  They actually chased me out of the knitting group that day, and sent me home to start my blog.

The only problem was, I had never been on a blog!  I didn’t know what a blog was.  So, I started to do some research and by the end of the day I had opened my blog.

The-Educational-Journey started as a vehicle to promote my books, but it quickly moved beyond that.  It took me about five minutes into creating my blog, that I realized it could be a platform for something I am truly passionate about, authentic learning – also referred to as project-based learning.  (I am very passionate about my books, but honestly not that passionate about marketing.)

Even though I was retired, I realized that everywhere I looked I still saw projects and authentic opportunities.  My blog gave me the platform to share these ideas.

I keep thinking that eventually I will run out of ideas.  Eventually, my weekly posts will become monthly.  This might happen, but now I kind of doubt it.  If anything, I am seeing more and more authentic project ideas every day.

Ironically another hobby has “upped my game.”  I joined a scrapbooking group in my community and have learned to photograph everything.  You just never know when you will want a photo of something you did or saw for a scrapbook page.  Not surprisingly, these photos also inspire ideas for authentic learning and projects.

As a retired (but forever) teacher, I now have time to “stop and smell the roses.” And each and every one of these roses gives me an idea for a new authentic experience.  And authentic ideas often lead down a path to unexpected new and different ideas.

If you think about it, I photograph things I am interested in or passionate about.  These photos represent authenticity to me.  I don’t photograph things that don’t interest or inspire me.  So, staying authentic keeps me engaged and excited and learning.  This is the way authentic learning works!  It grabs you, engages you, and doesn’t let you go. (And if I ever post a photograph of a snake, you can be sure my husband took the picture, I am having an “off” week, and decided to blog about project ideas with snakes – YUCK!)

You’ve made 100 posts on The Educational Journey.

Authentic Project Idea – Bridges

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Driving through a major US city recently, we saw many bridges.  Some were interesting, some really ugly, and a few were very attractive.

I really liked this bridge, and took many photos, as we were stopped in a major traffic jam.  A tunnel ahead of us was unexpectedly closed. (Hmmm…tunnels, traffic jams…I definitely see a few more blogs coming.)

What type of bridge is in the photo above?  What are the different types of bridges built today?  What about bridges of the past? How are bridges designed to support weight?  Does the geology and geography of an area influence the bridge design?  Covered bridges…definitely another blog about that!

Lots of authentic research, lots of possible authentic projects:  building a model bridge; writing about the history of bridges; creating a slide show about famous bridges, why they are famous, and where they are located; creative writing about bridges (Three Billy Goats Gruff might be an inspiration).  Actually, how many children’s stories feature a bridge…adult stories…movies…?

Authentic Project Idea – Fences

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Driving along a country road in Virginia, I ran across a beautiful split rail fence.  It was part of the fencing around a Civil War battlefield.  I started to think about these split rail fences, and the reasons why fences were constructed that way in centuries past.  Then I started to think about modern fences, some that are really beautiful and fit in with the landscape, and some really ugly fences.

An authentic project might be to research the history of fences.  How about a catalog of all of the ways fences have been, and are currently built. Or maybe, how the local environment impacts what materials are used in fences.  (Years ago, I saw wonderful playgrounds in Iceland that were carved into the lava flows, the surrounding lava becoming the “fence.”)  How about what fences are popular today and why?

A fantastic authentic project might be to design a modern, affordable, environmentally friendly fence that is not ugly!  Perhaps this might lead to a future venture/business into actual fence design and production!

Fences are used to keep dogs in yards.  There are many interesting breeds of dogs.  Do different breeds require different types of fences (material/height)? Remember – authentic learning means that a student’s passion may change the direction of the project.  If talking about fences leads to an in depth project about dog shows and how fencing and enclosures are used at these shows – that IS authentic learning!

 

Authentic Project Idea – What Was This?

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One photograph can be the jumping off point for an authentic project. What was this?  Who built it?  When? Why?  What happened to it? (history/research – reading)

Where was this photo taken? (geography) What clues are in the photo to help you figure this out? (botany/geology)

Design and build a model of what you think this structure was. (math)  Creative writing story starter? (writing)…

TEX THE EXPLORER: JOURNEY AROUND THE EARTH By Ellie Smith, Illustrated by Eyen Johnson

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I am very excited to announce that the second book in our award-winning “Tex the Explorer” series is finished and published!  Tex the Explorer: Journey Around the Earth is available on Amazon.  Eyen and I are really proud of this book!

Tex is a young T-Rex.  He loves to explore.  For his birthday his parents gave him an airplane.  Tex is off to explore the seven continents of the Earth!

 

Authentic Teaching – Teaching Outside the Box

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I had an opportunity a few years ago to visit the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.  I knew that this was some sort of structure that raised and lowered boats, sort of like a lock does.  However, I really couldn’t picture it and was totally surprised when our tour arrived at the Wheel.  It was nothing like what I imagined.

To me, this structure truly represents why authentic teaching and learning is so important.  The Falkirk Wheel is totally different from traditional locks.  This represents true “outside of the box” thinking.

We are heading into a future that we can’t even imagine.  Educating children in the traditional way of “one correct answer, one way to accomplish your goal, color inside the lines using the correct color, stay inside the box” is not going to prepare them for the future.  The jobs that many of our children will hold don’t even exist yet.  And many of the jobs people hold now, will not exist in the future.

Authentic teaching prepares students for this future world.  Make it real.  Make it count.

*And riding in a boat that was raised by the Falkirk Wheel was really cool!

Authentic Project Idea – Umbrellas

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What is the history of the umbrella?  When was the umbrella invented?  What have umbrellas been used for? (Umbrellas are being used in a very creative way in the above photograph.)

Authentic Research – You might be surprised at the lengthy history of the umbrella.

Authentic Project – Maybe a student can design a better umbrella.  Or create a beautiful umbrella.  Develop a timeline for the history of the umbrella.  Or maybe the above photograph is an inspiration for a creative writing project.

Or – what causes rain?  Remember in authentic learning students often end up exploring a related/different topic inspired by the original topic.  Umbrellas shield a person from rain, so what causes rain?  What causes a drought?  Can we make it rain?  What happens when there is a rain delay in a baseball game?…

Authentic Geography – If you want to know where this picture was taken, contact me through my blog, I will be happy to give you some clues!