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.
I recently returned from a journey where I saw many wonderful and enchanting lighthouses. There are so many different questions that I thought about while enjoying all of these lighthouses. How do they work? What purpose do they serve? How did they operate in the past? How and why are lighthouses built today?
What would I include in a lighthouse if I designed one? (My lighthouse would resemble a five-star hotel – just saying.)
There are so many interesting stories about lighthouses of the past that could be a jumping off point for authentic projects. I heard about a lighthouse keeper in Portland, Maine who became bored with just tending the lighthouse. He began to carve wooden horses that he sold for 75 cents to the local market. Today these horses are worth thousands of dollars each. An authentic project could be to develop other ways to pass the time while tending a lighthouse.
While purchasing a memento of the Egg Rock Lighthouse in Bar Harbor, Maine, the charming woman at the cash register introduced herself as the granddaughter of the last keepers of that lighthouse. She briefly shared her story with me. I wish I had had time to hear more about her grandparents! Another jumping off point for an authentic project, reading stories about past lighthouse keepers, and perhaps creating a compilation, journal, or even writing new stories based on past stories – endless possibilities… Grace, whose grandparents tended the Egg Rock Lighthouse near Bar Harbor, Maine
Having recently flown on a Dreamliner (and that plane is a dream to fly in) I was thinking about how airplanes, especially the wings, have changed in the last few decades. Wing-tips were added, and have changed several times. Why?
I thought this might be an interesting authentic investigation and project – doing research on why airplane and airplane wings have changed. Students could design and present their ideas for improved airplanes. Older students could focus on aerodynamics and airplane wings, new building materials used for planes, etc. Younger students could focus on interior changes to the inside of planes.
*I fall into the “younger student” aka “I don’t understand aerodynamics” category! My plane is going to have wider, more comfortable seats including armrests for each passenger – in coach class! Only two seats per row on each side, so that you are not climbing over, or being climbed over when someone needs to get up. Better food, more movies, the Ice Skating Network…
One of the most important lessons in social responsibility that we can teach children is to give thanks to those who serve and protect us. Thanking soldiers and first responders for what they do is an authentic experience for students, and one that makes a real difference to those who serve.
Operation Gratitude is a wonderful organization that sends care packages with scarves and letters to soldiers and first responders. They have very clear instructions and guidelines for teachers to use with students regarding making cards and writing letters.
While the holiday season is still a few months away, holiday cards generally need to be received a few months ahead of time. They do accept cards and letters year-round, so if the timing for holiday cards does not work, thank you notes and cards can be sent to them anytime.
Cards are mailed to their headquarters in California. While it shouldn’t be that expensive to pack up and mail letters or cards, don’t miss the authentic experiences available in fundraising to pay for postage for your package.
This is also a great authentic project for parents to do at home with kids.
*My knitting group donated over 100 scarves to Operation Gratitude care packages last year and I was impressed with what I learned about this organization while working with them. I am already busy knitting away for this year.