Authentic Project Ideas – Plants and Seasons

Good-bye gorgeous summer plants. Hello fall pumpkins. In most parts of the world the season is starting to change.  Actually, that is a great authentic project right there…is the season changing from summer to fall all over the world? In which parts of the world is the season changing from summer to fall? Do the seasons change in all parts of the world?  What season is it changing to?  Why? What causes seasons to change? Are we closer/farther away from the sun? (Most children will answer yes to this question…great authentic follow-up here.)

In many parts of the world we will lose our beautiful summer plants soon.  What will they be replaced with?  What grows well when the weather cools? What should be planted now?  What kinds of decorative plants?  Crops?  Where?  So many authentic ways to go with this… Enjoy what’s left of the summer (or winter)!

Authentic Project Ideas – Designing a Better Car

Photo by Christie Anderson

Kids love cars!  One of the authentic projects I was involved with was having the kids design a better car.  This can be done on almost any grade level. 

Young children can be creative and use their imaginations (an ice cream maker in the car, hot tub, wide screen television).  Kids can write about their dream car, draw a picture and label the parts, cut and paste pictures found on the web, build models…

Older students can research current cars and add the features that they would like to see in a future car. Hybrids, electric cars, hydrogen cars… Lots of authentic ways this project could go.

Authentic Project Ideas – Butterflies

How many types of butterflies are there?  Where do different butterflies live?  Are there butterflies that prefer cool climates to warm climates?  Are there butterflies in cool climates?  Do all countries/continents have butterflies?

Do research about butterflies (Reading). Write a book about butterflies (Writing). Design a sanctuary for butterflies (Science/Math).  Build it (More Math). Photograph butterflies (The Arts).

One photo, unlimited authentic questions, unlimited authentic project ideas…

Authentic Project Ideas – Covered Bridges

We just did a drive through a neighboring county looking for covered bridges. There is something very beautiful and intriguing about a covered bridge.

So, what is the history of the covered bridge?  Why were they built “covered?”  Were covered bridges built all over the world or just in some countries?  Are covered bridges still built today?

Design a covered bridge.  Build a model of a covered bridge.  Create a map showing where covered bridges are located in specific areas.  Lots of authentic ways to explore covered bridges.

Authentic Project Ideas – Waves

If you look closely in the above picture you can see a lot of surfers waiting to catch waves.  It didn’t look like a great place to catch waves to me, but right after I took the photo, many of them caught a wave. (Of course, I missed that picture!)

So what do surfers know about waves that makes them able to predict where and when a good wave will show up?  What makes waves?  Where are the best waves in the world for surfing?

And if this project turns into a project about where the best beaches are in the world for catching fish, or the best beaches in the world for getting a great tan – that is authentic learning!

Authentic Project Ideas Across Age/Grade Levels

I often see educators asking for project ideas for specific age/grade levels.  I hesitate sometimes to post a link to my blog when folks are asking for middle/high school ideas, as my entire career was spent at the elementary level.  But I think when I stop and look at my project ideas, most can be used for any age level.

I just saw this great idea for growing plants at home during the Coronavirus quarantine.  There were so many things the student growing these was trying to learn about.  She was interested in how plants reacted in direct sun versus shade.  How different plants needed more/less water.  What seeds grew best?  What seeds needed to be transplanted to a bigger container?  What happened when you kept the seedlings warmer versus cooler? So many authentic questions and so many authentic concepts to cover.

She researched/read about plants, kept notes and logs, measurements – so many authentic academic skills…

I love the egg carton idea.  So easy to get and use. I liked the idea so much, I used it on Zoom with my kindergarten-age granddaughter who was also interested in learning about plants.

Oh, the age of the student who gave me this idea, senior in college…just sayin!

Authentic Project Ideas – Pineapples

I was very surprised to see this is how pineapples grow.  For some reason I thought the fruit part grew underground, and all you saw was the green leafy part sticking out of the ground.

So, at least some kinds of pineapples grow this way.  Are there different kinds of pineapples? Do all varieties of pineapples grow this way? Have the leaves ever been used for anything?  How did pineapples get their name?  What is the history of the pineapple?

Read about pineapples. Create a chart about the different parts of the pineapple. Write about the history of the pineapple. Create a diorama showing how pineapples grow. Do a taste comparison of different brands of pineapples. Is the taste impacted by where the pineapple grows? So many authentic ways to go with this…

And if this project turns into developing a recipe for a great pineapple upside cake – that is authentic learning – and please send me the recipe!

Authentic Project Ideas – The History of the Elevator

I did a post about elevators a while back, but this one was too cool to pass up!

We just returned from a historic lodge which had this elevator.  You opened the door and then pulled the gate back to get in.  There were modern elevators in the lodge also, but we went out of our way to always use this one. The only other time I have seen an elevator like this was in Europe years ago. 

So, what is the history of the elevator?  Who invented it? Where was it invented?  (Reading)

Design an elevator (Math).  Construct an elevator (Math).  What will elevators in the future look like (Writing/Math)?  Lots of authentic ways to go with this…up, down…sideways?

Authentic Project Ideas – Designing a Carousel

I saw this whimsical carousel in Boston.  I love the sea-life included in the carousel, so appropriate as Boston is all about seafood!

It would be a fun authentic project to design a carousel (lots of math, lots of writing) and perhaps incorporate a theme from where you live, or what you enjoy, into the carousel.  It could feature famous landmarks, favorite sports, characters from books…

Your students could even build a model of their carousel.  A working model could incorporate the authentic topics of energy and motion.

Maybe even design and build a model amusement park.  With authentic projects the sky – and beyond – is the limit.

Authentic Project Ideas – Creative Recycling

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!