What causes the waves in the oceans? Why are waves bigger on some coastlines than on others? Where are the best places to surf? Lots of questions, lots of research, many possible currents to follow (waves…currents…get it!) Hmm…what causes ocean currents?
Authentic projects often start with a simple question, lead to research, and end in models or experiments.
How do clouds form? What are the different types of clouds? What do clouds tell us about approaching weather systems?
Can you get one type of cloud on top of another type of cloud? Yes, you can! I was in an airplane when I started thinking about clouds and I saw one type of cloud layered on top of another type of cloud. Or maybe that was just one type of cloud? Off to do some authentic research myself!
Maybe I’ll start to photograph and label all of the different types of clouds I can find and what they mean…
How do airplane engines work? What is the difference between how propellers work and how jet engines work? Some airplanes have hybrid propellers/jet engines, how do those work?
Authentic projects often start with a simple question, lead to research, and end with a student construction of a 747 (if you are lucky, it will just be a model).
NASA successfully landed another spacecraft on Mars last week. My husband and I watched the landing and both of us had tears in our eyes. It is so totally amazing when you stop and think about what NASA has accomplished. We were just blown away. (We were also very impressed with the extremely cool “Star Trekkie” shirts that everyone in Mission Control was wearing during the landing. Don’t tell my husband, but one is on order for him for a holiday gift!)
The mission of this stationary craft is to study the deep interior of Mars. Launched along with InSight but flying separately were two CubeSats. MarCo A and B, nicknamed Wall-E and Eva (from the Pixar film Wall-E) are now in orbit around Mars.
The authentic projects that students could do regarding InSight and the CubeSats are endless. What is InSight’s mission? What mission firsts will take place? Is InSight a rover? What is the mission of the CubeSats? If you could design a mission to Mars what would your design be? What would you hope to accomplish? This list could go on forever…
My Martian Colony Project started by simply showing a fifth-grade class NASA videos of the Martian Rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. This authentic project took off from there and literally took over my professional life for the next four years! (For more on this check out my book One School’s Journey – you can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.)
Looking down off of a moving cruise ship – the pilot has just jumped off and is being helped by a crew member on the pilot boat.
I was recently talking about how amazing big ships are – how those gigantic machines can be so carefully maneuvered. The person I was chatting with didn’t realize that pilots hopped on and off moving ships to bring them into and out of ports. I knew a lot about ship pilots because one happened to live in my mother’s apartment building in Fort Lauderdale.
Several ways an authentic project about ships could go, and probably many more depending on student interest. How do these large ships work? What are the mechanics and technology on a ship? What are all of the jobs that people have who work on ships? (That is a long and fascinating list, including the pilot mentioned above.) All of these questions have different answers depending on the type of ship the student is interested in – Cruise Ship, Merchant Ship, Naval Ship…
Plan a trip, design a better ship, plan a career…
I woke up this morning to some really beautiful red leaves in our neighborhood. While out and about, people were commenting on how gorgeous the leaves finally were. I had been aware that this fall we had not had the usual amount of gorgeous leaves, but really had not paid much attention to why. My knowledge of fall foliage is basically that the weather gets colder, the leaves change colors, and then they fall of the trees.
Listening to those around me discuss the late arrival of the fall colors this year, most people were talking about the amount of rain we had this past summer and how that delayed the fall colors. We had had a very wet summer – ok that is an understatement. We had a “build an ark and get ready for the flood” summer. Every day. It rained. Poured. I have never ended a summer so pale!
So, was all the rain what delayed the fall colors? What causes leaves to change colors? Why are some red, some yellow, some orange…? I can think of authentic projects from the PreK level (collecting leaves, labeling colors, identifying tree type) to the high school level (scientific explanations for all of my above questions).
This could lead to authentic projects about evergreen versus deciduous trees, the arctic tree line, tree disease… There are endless possibilities as to where this authentic project could lead based on student interest and discourse (as is the case with all authentic projects)!
Signing off now….wait…what about understanding how scientists predict when the peak of fall colors will be every year. Planning a trip to see fall colors. Where should I go? When? What hotels should I stay in? What is my budget for this trip?
OK…really ending this blog entry now…Hmm…How do those jewelers make those gorgeous pendants of leaves dipped in gold?…Why do the leaves turn colors on the trees at the bottom of our local mountains, before the top trees turn? Isn’t it colder at the top of the mountain? Don’t the trees in colder temperatures lose their leaves first?
If it is real and authentic, the project possibilities are endless!
While on a recent journey through the northeastern waterways of the United States and Canada, I saw one small island after another. Thinking back on the authentic project I was involved with about establishing a colony on Mars, I started to imagine what it would be like to survive on one of these islands. What would I need to survive? What would I eat, what kind of shelter would I need, what kinds of clothes would I need? (OK-this is definitely a fictitious authentic project as personally I need a five-star hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine, with plenty of lobster, and lovely clothes available in the local boutiques-but I digress…)
This project would vary based on where the island was located as needs would be different based on climate, natural resources, etc.