I love entering photos and crafts into our local county Grange Fair (which sadly won’t be taking place this summer due to Coronavirus). One of my favorite categories to view is the craft category of turning something old into something useful again. I have never entered, but it is so cool to see what people do. Old jean shorts turned into purses, t-shirts turned into quilts, glass bottles turned into lamp bases, fronts of old greeting cards turned into new cards…
I saw this at a local restaurant and it reminded me of that category. Simply taking old horseshoes and turning them into a menu holder on the wall. I don’t think this would be a ribbon winning entry – not overly creative – but it is certainly a really cool authentic way to recycle.
So, authentic project idea – turn something old into something useful again. Write directions for what you are creating. Include any needed math. Maybe somehow turn this into a community service project – creating something to cheer someone up…lots of ways this project could go. I would love to hear what your learners come up with!
How does Solar Energy work? I thought I understood how it worked, but when it was explained to me by someone involved in the industry, I was totally surprised to learn that I did not understand it at all.
A great authentic project would be to not only learn about how solar energy works, but to think about ways to improve it. Even the youngest learners can understand the basics of solar energy. Learners can also draw diagrams or make authentic models of how solar energy works. Or maybe even propose other alternative ways to create energy.
And remember that if this project turns into a discussion and plan of how to conserve energy, and that leads to planning a way to track energy consumption – that is authentic learning!
Summer is finally here, and kids are out of school and home for the summer. (Officially that is – most have been home for months.) This is the time that summer lemonade and baked good stands start to appear.
With so many people struggling to make ends meet due to the Coronavirus and the economic impact of the shutdowns, it would be a great authentic project to turn these summer stands into fundraisers for local food banks.
An authentic project such as a lemonade stand with home-made cookies includes reading recipes, using math to make the lemonade and cookies, writing signs, more math to sell the lemonade and cookies…the authentic experiences are endless.
And it is never too early for kids to learn how good it feels to help those in need, and that every little bit helps. It may not seem like much to donate a few dollars to a food bank, but it means the world to the family that gets food due to that donation.
Toys and games of the past were made out of wood. There were so many simple, yet fun games, that were played in the past. What were some of these games? When and where were they created? Who played them?
Create a new authentic board game. Make the game board. (Cardboard is fine if you don’t happen to be a wood carver!) Create your own rules. Teach the game to your friends.
And if it is a game that can be played over Zoom, if you make one and send it to your friends as well – even better!
This was a small, simple Ferris Wheel that I saw at a carnival last summer. It actually looked kind of sad to me – it definitely needed a tad more creativity in the design. Perhaps a theme, a little decoration, something…
Which got me thinking about designing a Ferris Wheel. Students could add creative carriages, etc. And for older students there is the engineering behind Ferris Wheels. The history of Ferris Wheels, famous Ferris Wheels…
And always remember that this is just the starting point. If a student ends up doing research on the clouds seen from the top of the Ferris Wheel – that’s an authentic project!
*We were in London about a decade ago with our children and didn’t ride the London Eye because it was expensive. We are still kicking ourselves!
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.
QUILT 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.
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
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!
Penn State University April 2, 2020
We are all living through a historical event of world-wide impact. As with all history, we learn from what we experience, and should record these lessons for the future.
Keeping a diary, log, or photo-journal of current events about COVID-19 is an authentic way to record history in the making. It is also a way to open up honest communication with our children about what is happening. Honest age-appropriate communication to stress the importance of what is happening, while allaying overwhelming fears. Even young children can keep a photo-journal of current events, without focusing on the parts they are not old enough to process and handle.
There are unbelievable pictures of empty streets in cities throughout the world. Scenes that most of us have never seen in our lifetime. This is an opportunity to learn more about our world, our inter-dependence, and develop a greater appreciation for others. This is a time to increase our humanity.
The focus of my blog is authentic learning. Make it real and make it count. There is no better way to teach and learn. Education is also the key to understanding, and understanding helps replace fear with rational thought and action.
Stay Safe, Stay Well