Authentic Project Ideas – Building a Gingerbread House

My son had a math teacher in middle school who was also a national champion ginger bread house designer and builder!  She gave the kids a marvelous assignment for extra credit – to design and build a ginger bread house. 

There was lots of guidance and many suggestions.  She sent home lots of reading material for parents to help them assist with the project.  I am pretty much inept in the kitchen and she sent home enough written support, and did enough instruction with the kids, that I was able to get through this with my son successfully. 

There was tons of authentic math involved…creating the design (scale, angles), measuring the ingredients (fractions, units of measurement), baking temperature and baking time (measuring temperature, elapsed time)…  There were limitless opportunities to bring in authentic math skills.

We continued this as a family tradition for many years. As a mother, I saw it as great family bonding time, especially with teenagers who were difficult to corral into family bonding. As a teacher, I also knew my teenagers were getting great authentic experiences with reading, math, creativity and problem solving.

One year, we even encountered an authentic mystery to solve. We used chocolate mints as shingles on the roof.  We were surprised and a tad confused to see that every morning the shingles had “melted.”  We lived in the north and didn’t overheat our house, so we couldn’t figure out what was happening.  We had lots of hypotheses but none seemed to be the answer.  One night I came downstairs to get something from the kitchen and caught one of our cats happily licking the roof.  Mystery solved!

*The photo above is not the house we built.  It is a professionally created display that is presented yearly at a local hotel. You probably figured that out on your own! 

Authentic Project Ideas – What to do with those Holiday Cards

For the first time, I am making my own holiday cards this year.  I realized while I was doing this, that I have a huge stash of new holiday cards from previous years that I will probably never use.  I did a little digging on line and found out that nursing homes love to receive new holiday cards for their residents to use.

This would be a great authentic project.  Collecting new cards and donating them to a local nursing home.  Finding out which nursing homes or organizations would like cards donated, organizing this, getting the word out, having a drop off spot…

All of these authentic activities could cover many different academic goals. Reading – researching on line. Math – counting, tallying, predicting, graphing. Writing – composing letters/emails to ask for donations, writing to organizations asking if they would like new cards donated. Social Responsibility Skills – donating time and effort for others.

This may also lead to an authentic project of sending greeting cards to residents of a nursing home or hospital.

I also have a collection of cards that I have received over the years. They are just too gorgeous to throw out.   I found out that St. Jude collects used cards to recycle for future use.  Just doing the on-line research is an authentic activity that could lead to many authentic projects.

Safe and Happy Holidays!

Authentic Project Ideas – Thanksgiving

I am feeling a little guilty looking at these guys knowing that the American holiday of Thanksgiving is coming up.   I was going to write a blog about authentic experiences cooking, but then I looked at these guys and decided to go a different route.

What is the history of Thanksgiving in the United States?  What similar holidays do other countries have?  What are the different traditions of these holidays that remind us to be thankful for what we have?

Research these holidays, write a report, develop a timeline, propose a new holiday…  And a wonderful authentic project would be to have learners do something special for someone who is less fortunate than they are.  Especially now, these are easy times to fall into feeling sorry for ourselves, instead of looking at what our blessings really are.

And speaking of fortunate…I found out those guys in the photo are pets!

Authentic Project Ideas – Fall Leaf Colors

What causes the leaves on trees to change different colors in the fall?  Why don’t they all change to yellow?  Or red?  Purple?! Why don’t all trees change colors in the fall?

And if this project changes into research on why palm trees are suited for the tropics because of hurricanes…then that is authentic learning. And if from there, this project changes into research on why we had so many hurricanes this year…that is really authentic learning!

Authentic Project Ideas – Hot Air Balloons

How do hot air balloons work?  What makes them rise up in the sky? What is the history of hot air balloons?  When were they first used?  For what purposes? What is the difference between a hot air balloon and a blimp? 

Read about hot air balloons.  Learn about how they work.  Create a poster, photo journal, model, authentic working model…  So many authentic ways to go with this topic…

And to clarify…I took this picture of a balloon flying over my neighborhood.  It is fairly easy to book a ride on this balloon.  And to further clarify…NOT HAPPENING!

Authentic Project Ideas – Domestic vs Wild Animals

What is the difference between a domestic and a wild animal?  Your learners may be surprised once you dig into this a little.  I had assumed that domestic animals were simply those that were pets – cats and dogs.  

But it turns out it is not that simple.  I found this out when I wanted to enter a wonderful photo I had of alpacas into the wild animal category for a photo contest.  A friend told me that was the wrong category for this photo.  Alpacas are domestic animals. Once I started to do research I was really surprised at what is considered a domestic animal. I really didn’t understand what the term domestic meant.  It is also fascinating to find out when an animal was domesticated.  Dogs – 30,000 years ago!

Lots of authentic projects here.  Starting to research this topic could easily move into an authentic project about pretty much any animal out there.  Gotta go, time to feed my pet alpacas.

Authentic Project Ideas – What Was That?

I have decided to go on a quest to scrapbook all 67 counties in my home state of Pennsylvania. This started as a way to get out and about during COVID, just something to safely do. Drive around, take some interesting photos, and go home and create a scrapbook page.

It changed into a huge project that I am really enjoying. Not only am I learning more about my new home state (we moved here four years ago) but I am being reminded about how much fun simple things are. And how many authentic projects are out there waiting to be discovered!

For example, in one county my husband and I drove past a huge factory. We commented on it, but it didn’t really look that interesting. When we returned home we mentioned this to some friends, who then told us, that was the original Chef Boyardeee Factory. If we had stopped and investigated a little, we would have seen the smoke stack with Chef Boyardeee written on it. But we had just driven past.

So a few weeks later we made the two hour drive back to investigate, and sure enough, there it was. We took some photos, explored some more, returned home, and ate Chef Boyardee Ravioli and Beefaroni! We then researched about the history of Chef Boyardee and the factory. Fascinating story. Lots of potential authentic projects – history, biography, time line, financing, factory location, factory construction…

So many authentic projects are just waiting out there, if you stop and smell the roses – or in this case the ravioli – there are buildings, and objects, and plants, and animals…. just waiting for someone to stop, look, question, research, and learn from.

Authentic Project Ideas – Satellite Dishes

On a recent drive through the country, we found this satellite dish.  It is hard to tell from the picture how huge it is, I believe the area of the dish is several football fields!

So, what are these dishes used for?  Why are they called “satellite dishes?” How are they constructed?  Are they always round?  What are some jobs associated with satellite dishes? 

Read about satellite dishes.  Write about their uses.  Calculate their different sizes (area, perimeter, radius, circumference…)  Build a model.  Write a sci-fi story. (ET Phone Home!)

So many authentic projects…

Authentic Project Ideas – Water

Water. Where does our fresh water come from?  Does it come from different places/sources depending on where you live?

How can we conserve water?  Why is it important to use water wisely?  Are there places where there is a shortage of water? 

Is water recycled? How is waste water treated? Can you drink it after it is treated? How is seawater desalinated?

Write a brochure about where your water comes from.  Create a poster about the importance of water conservation.  Research where people in different places get their water from and create a chart… So many authentic project ideas, so many ways to go with this very important topic.

Authentic Project Ideas – Horses

Kids love horses!  The authentic projects that could be done about horses are endless. Actually, the authentic projects that can be done on any topic are endless…

The history of horses.  Where did horses originally come from?  How have horses been used in the past?  How are horses used today?  What are the different kinds of horses?  What is the difference between a horse and a pony? Are zebras a type of horse? Do you find different kinds of horses in different places?  What are the most valuable horses?

Create a book about horses.  Create a chart about the different kinds of horses.  Diorama, slide show, poster, photo journal… 

For older learners this could go the route of learning about agencies that help horses being mistreated.  Perhaps setting up a fundraiser to support their cause.

Giddy Up!