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
I have always felt that authentic projects were the best way to teach. With so many parents being called upon to educate their children at home, I wanted to reach out again to offer the ideas on my blog.
I started this blog as a way to share my passion, authentic teaching and learning. I retired a few years ago, and I was ready to slow down. But, I found that I still needed an outlet as a teacher. My blog allows me to continue to share the ideas that I have about how to authentically educate children.
Thank you for allowing me to share my passion. Best wishes to everyone and stay healthy.
What does it take to run an airport? How many different types of jobs are there at airports? If you stop and watch for a while, it’s amazing how many people are involved in keeping an airport running and getting flights into the air.
A great authentic project might be to do research and then create a chart of all the jobs that it takes to run an airport. What type of training does each job require? Education? Experience? And don’t forget the jobs involved with running an airline.
Another authentic project could be to propose a location for a new airport. What needs to be considered when proposing a new site for an airport? Design this new airport. Draw up plans, build a model. (Research/Reading, Writing, Math…)
And why is it that whenever I have to change planes at an airport, the two gates are as far from each other as possible?
Flying down to Florida recently, we had an amazingly clear day. We could see the ground for almost the entire flight. In all my years of flying down to Florida (I grew up in South Florida) I have never seen views like this. The picture above is a photo of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in Central Florida. You can see two launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building, and the shuttle landing strip!
This, of course, got me thinking about authentic projects. So many ways to go just using this photo as a prompt.
Why were we able to see so much on this flight? I have flown this flight dozens and dozens of times and never had this view. What was different about the weather? What might have caused this?
Or…what is currently being constructed in the Vehicle Assembly Building? What mission is being planned?
Or…why was the cape built right on the ocean? Weather? Safety? Politics? (That certainly entered into play for the location of the Johnson Space Center and Mission Control in Houston.)
Or…how many NASA centers are there in the United States? What is the mission of each center? What space programs exist in other countries? Segue into the International Space Station.
Create a timeline of all space missions that have happened. Identify them by countries involved. Locate these countries on a map. Learn about the history of the space programs in these countries. Write a report, create a chart or graph…
Design and build a model rocket. Design and build a model for a new space station. Plan a new mission…
The sky (and beyond) is the limit with this photo and authentic projects that it might inspire…
First of all, let me just state, that my husband took this photo in Everglades National Park in South Florida and I think he was way too close to that gator! (OK…he was on an official park tour and the guide told them how close they could get…and he followed all the rules…and Great-Grandma was with him…but…Are You Kidding Me!)
That being said, I tend to get most of my blog ideas from photos that either I have taken, or that family members or friends give me. It is amazing how many ideas you can get from a photo. If you think about it, photos are visual memories of what we have seen and done. I really don’t think I would come up with a quarter of the ideas I have without looking at photos.
So when I saw this photo (after my initial horror) I thought about all the interesting authentic projects you could do about alligators. Basic facts about alligators. How they live. Where they live. What they eat…
Their history in South Florida has been one of near extinction to the re-population of the species. How was this accomplished? Why was this important? Most people react to gators the way I do. Why do we care if a species like the alligator becomes extinct? (Great authentic lessons here about humanity, ecosystems, and the interdependency of species.)
How is an alligator different from a crocodile? Where are alligators found? Crocodiles?
Lots of ways to go with this…and just remember…snap that picture and run!
Advertising is a very powerful tool. Not only would it be a great authentic project for students to learn about how advertisements are created, but also how we are influenced by ads.
Ads are created to hit an emotional response in us. We need that, we want that, we will be better people if we have that. (Will we really?)
With one project I was involved with, the third graders wrote, created props, and filmed ads to convince other students in our school to come see their projects. The ads were filmed on a teacher’s cell phone and shared with other classes. This was a tremendous authentic learning experience on so many levels, and an off-shoot from the original project that we hadn’t planned on.
And does advertising work…well while watching the Alamo Bowl with my husband (it seems the only channels my television got during December/January had college football games on them) I saw one ad after another for visiting San Antonio, Texas. And guess where my photo above was recently taken!