Quilt by Chris Staver
Finding sources of energy on our planet is a huge issue. Very few people don’t agree that we need to move to renewable and clean sources of energy. What does that even mean, “renewable?” What are current sources of “clean” energy? What are all the different ways we get energy today?
Solar energy, wind turbines, fracking, oil, coal, water, wood… How do all of these provide energy, how do they work? What are the pros and cons with each source? What other ways might we get energy? How can we conserve energy?
Lots of authentic energy topics to learn about and explore.
How did the story of Santa’s reindeer start? Are there real reindeer? Where do you find reindeer? Did Santa’s reindeer always include Rudolph? Do any of the other reindeer have special stories?
Write a new story about Santa’s reindeer. Write a poem. Draw a picture…
Create a new authentic way (make-believe qualifies) for Santa to pull his sleigh…
The Nutcracker. What is the history of the Nutcracker? What country did the Nutcracker originate in? How did the Nutcracker become associated with the holidays?
Design a Nutcracker. Start a photo journal of unique Nutcrackers. Make an authentic Nutcracker…
Most Nutcrackers are carved from wood. What are other wooden toys? How did toys of the past differ from toys of the present? (Authentic projects start with one topic and frequently evolve to another topic.)
Major cities provide tons of authentic topics for teaching, learning, and exploration. Why did a city end up where it did? Boston definitely developed as a major sea port. Were there other factors that influenced the growth of Boston? New York City? London? Beijing?
What are the reasons that a city developed in a certain spot? Water access, train lines, topography, climate, tourism, historical events…
Are those reasons changing today? What determined the growth/decline of cities of the past? What determines the growth/decline of cities today? What might determine the growth/decline of cities in the future?
It would be interesting to chart/graph the growth/decline of cities in the past and present. Maybe even adding into the chart/graph the reasons for the growth/decline…
And how about designing an authentic city for the future…
What a gorgeous fall morning! Couldn’t resist this picture. So, are these clouds? Fog? What is the difference between clouds and fog? We had had a ton of rain the day before. Did the wet conditions contribute to this? Also, we live up in the mountains. Did altitude contribute to this?
What causes clouds? What causes fog? Can this effect be reproduced in an experiment inside a controlled environment? Is the composition of my photo any good? How could I take a better photo? What makes a photo interesting. (Feedback appreciated. I enter my photos in our county fair every summer and I love ribbons!) Authentic jumping off point for several projects…
How do spinning wheels work? How important were spinning wheels to people in the past? How is wool spun into yarn today?
In what children’s story is wool spun into gold? What other children’s stories involve spinning wheels? Write a story involving a spinning wheel.
Make a spinning wheel. Lots of authentic directions to go from the starting point of the spinning wheel. And I am busy trying to turn the yarn I just bought into gold, I will let you know how that goes!
In centuries past, many (most?) jobs involved agriculture and/or production of tangible goods. Today many (most?) jobs involve information. What will the jobs of the future be? Will we still have farms? (We will always need food, but will it come from farms?) Will people be needed to work on farms? Will there still be small businesses?
What are some jobs from the past that no longer exist? What are some jobs that exist now that are going away?
Many authentic ways that students could answer and present the above questions. Reports, charts, graphs, posters, living history presentations…
And…students could create a resume for a future job that they would like to have. What can they do now to authentically prepare for this job?
This one may be for middle/high school, although I really disliked it when folks underestimated my elementary kids…so this may work for elementary also.
My husband and I just took a lovely afternoon train ride booked as “The Fall Foliage Special.” One thing we noticed was the amount of freight traffic coming through at our destination depot. There were six trains in one hour! There is definitely a lot of cargo being moved by trains.
It is amazing to watch these trains go by. They seem to go on and on forever, usually being pulled by just two engines. And returning to our starting point, the conductor mentioned that we were completing the final 20 miles of our journey using no energy as it was slightly downhill and the train had plenty of momentum. (Trains/Energy/Momentum…Authentic Teaching/Learning…)
So, I started to wonder…what does it cost to ship a container on a freight train? What is the cost differential of shipping something by truck versus freight train. Is it cheaper to ship by train? Why or why not? What makes one more reasonable than the other? Why is one picked over the other? (We live in Central Pennsylvania and I can assure you there is also no shortage of shipping being done by trucks on our highways!)
Maybe students can pick a cargo they want to ship from Destination A to Destination B and do a cost analysis of train versus truck. And to further the authentic research, add shipping by airplane into the mix. And don’t some of the freight containers that end up on a train arrive by ship? How in the world is all of this coordinated? And when I order two very different items from Amazon on two different days, how in the world do they arrive in the same box? Lots of authentic jumping off points!
Why do different trees turn different colors in the fall? Reds, yellows, oranges… What causes leaves to turn colors? This season the leaves seem so much brighter and more colorful than they were last fall. What causes leaves to be more colorful some years, and less colorful other years?
There are so many great projects to do with fall leaves. Not only answering the questions above, but displays of leaves (labeled as to type of tree they came from), photo journals, art projects using the leaves…
Many people like to hike and enjoy the gorgeous fall colors this time of year. What other outdoor activities do people like to do in the fall? If you look closely, in the picture above you can see a boat with some fishermen in it. Is fall a good time to fish? And as always…if a discussion of fall leaves turns into a project about fishing…that is authentic teaching and learning!
So, this one kind of stumped me. I had never seen blue pumpkins before, until I stumbled upon these in a local market. (Maybe I have been living a sheltered life.) Are blue pumpkins new or have they been around for a while? How do you grow a blue pumpkin? What other color pumpkins can you find?
Where do pumpkins grow best? What part of the pumpkin do we eat? What can the seeds be used for?
Create a display about different kinds of pumpkins. Bake a pumpkin pie. Predict how many seeds are inside a pumpkin. Bake the pumpkin seeds. Create pumpkin art with the seeds. Bake something using the inside of an actual pumpkin (not canned pumpkin).
How did the Jack-O-Lantern tradition start? What is the history of Halloween? How did the tradition of eating pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving in America start? What are Fall Holiday traditions in other countries?
And…upon researching blue pumpkins I stumbled across information about these pumpkins. Blue pumpkins are being used to symbolize at least two really thoughtful things for Halloween Trick-or-Treaters. I am not sure if this is just in America, or in other countries as well that celebrate Halloween.
Lots of authentic questions, lots of starting points for authentic projects.