Tex the Explorer: Journey Around the Earth Receives 2019 Mom’s Choice Award

front cover

Tex the Explorer: Journey Around the Earth is a

2019 Mom’s Choice Awards® Silver Recipient!

Available on Amazon.

Authentic Project Ideas – Elevators

Elevators

This is a photo of an elevator at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  I love this elevator.  You can really see all of the parts and how it works!  So how do elevators work?  Do all elevators work this way?  How did elevators of the past work?  What is the history of elevators? When was the elevator invented? Where?

So many authentic investigations and possible projects…  Building a model elevator would involve research (reading), planning (writing), and construction (math).  I have a friend who loves to photograph interesting windows.  It might be a fun, authentic experience/project to start a photographic journal of interesting elevators, with written descriptions of each one, how it works, where it is located (geography)…   And you are welcome to copy and use my photo from this blog as the first entry!

Being Authentic

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I recently received an email from a teacher asking me what inspired my ideas for projects.

When I was teaching, I was inspired by what the students were interested in.  Ok, that is not a totally honest answer.  I was inspired by my love of space, and in particular my fascination with Mars.  It was easy for me to be creative and stay engaged.  Doing research on my own time was not an added chore, I was already reading everything that I could get my hands on.  I didn’t need to hunt for materials, I was able to put what I had already collected to good use.  And my enthusiasm for Mars was contagious.  When a teacher is excited and engaged, the students become excited and engaged.

But, a good authentic project requires the teacher to listen to student discourse and alter plans accordingly.  With the Martian Colony Project that was easy, because we could incorporate just about anything into the open-ended plans for our colony.  Sports – no problem – we created a Martian football league.  Fashion – clothing designs for Mars.  Government – that was huge – laying the groundwork for a new colonial government (easy tie in to the formation of our U.S. government, tons of history lessons there). Spa – Hey, I wasn’t spending the rest of my life on Mars with a bunch of fifth graders without a lot of manicures, pedicures, and pampering!

Every one of these topics involved a basic understanding of Space Exploration and Mars, and included almost unlimited opportunities for reading, writing, math, social studies, science…

Even the planning for the spa, actually especially the planning for the spa, involved a great deal of research, writing, math, science… (The spa started as a snarky suggestion from a group of fifth-grade girls who were doing everything possible to not engage in the colony.  These girls ended up being our most engaged students.)

Now that I am retired (forever a teacher, however), I have time to stop and smell the roses.  A whole lot of roses!  And I photograph everything for my scrapbooks.  And invariably I end up seeing authentic projects in these photos.  (And entering them in our local Grange Fair and winning a lot of ribbons, but that is another story!)

Being retired means that I can spend my time following my passions – like writing this blog!  I can spend time doing the things that I love to do. I am being authentic.  And when you are being authentic, doing something you love to do, you want to explore and learn more.  Isn’t that what good teaching should be?

Authentic Project Ideas – Rainbows

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The photo above as authentic inspiration – this is one that can go in a million different directions…

Authentic Science:  What causes us to see a rainbow?  What causes the different colors?  Why are some rainbows more colorful than others?

Authentic Math:  Is it possible to figure out the diameter and radius of a rainbow?

Authentic Research/Reading:  Read about rainbows.  Learn about rainbows.

Authentic Literature: Read stories that feature rainbows.  How did the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” tale start?

Authentic Writing:  Write a report about rainbows.   Write a fiction story featuring a rainbow.

Authentic Creation:  Create a diorama, a poster, storyboard, video, photo journal…

Remember in authentic learning there is a starting point or prompt, and your student(s) can go anywhere from there.  (Rainbows – Rain – Building a Rain Gauge…Rainbows – Lack of Rain – Irrigation Techniques…) And not all authentic learning leads to a big project.  Sometimes a quick hit and time to move on…

The sky is the limit (pun intended).

We Pause for an Authentic Station Identification

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This is my 100th post!  I started this blog over a year ago to promote my first children’s book.  That is the total, honest truth. But being authentic to myself, the purpose of the blog quickly changed.

I live in a retirement community near a major university.  Many of the people in my neighborhood are retired professors and savvy about the book publishing and promotion world.  When my first book came out, the women in my knitting group told me I needed a presence on the web to promote my book. They told me I needed to start a blog.  They actually chased me out of the knitting group that day, and sent me home to start my blog.

The only problem was, I had never been on a blog!  I didn’t know what a blog was.  So, I started to do some research and by the end of the day I had opened my blog.

The-Educational-Journey started as a vehicle to promote my books, but it quickly moved beyond that.  It took me about five minutes into creating my blog, that I realized it could be a platform for something I am truly passionate about, authentic learning – also referred to as project-based learning.  (I am very passionate about my books, but honestly not that passionate about marketing.)

Even though I was retired, I realized that everywhere I looked I still saw projects and authentic opportunities.  My blog gave me the platform to share these ideas.

I keep thinking that eventually I will run out of ideas.  Eventually, my weekly posts will become monthly.  This might happen, but now I kind of doubt it.  If anything, I am seeing more and more authentic project ideas every day.

Ironically another hobby has “upped my game.”  I joined a scrapbooking group in my community and have learned to photograph everything.  You just never know when you will want a photo of something you did or saw for a scrapbook page.  Not surprisingly, these photos also inspire ideas for authentic learning and projects.

As a retired (but forever) teacher, I now have time to “stop and smell the roses.” And each and every one of these roses gives me an idea for a new authentic experience.  And authentic ideas often lead down a path to unexpected new and different ideas.

If you think about it, I photograph things I am interested in or passionate about.  These photos represent authenticity to me.  I don’t photograph things that don’t interest or inspire me.  So, staying authentic keeps me engaged and excited and learning.  This is the way authentic learning works!  It grabs you, engages you, and doesn’t let you go. (And if I ever post a photograph of a snake, you can be sure my husband took the picture, I am having an “off” week, and decided to blog about project ideas with snakes – YUCK!)

You’ve made 100 posts on The Educational Journey.

Authentic Project Ideas – Bridges

Bridges

Driving through a major US city recently, we saw many bridges.  Some were interesting, some really ugly, and a few were very attractive.

I really liked this bridge, and took many photos, as we were stopped in a major traffic jam.  A tunnel ahead of us was unexpectedly closed. (Hmmm…tunnels, traffic jams…I definitely see a few more blogs coming.)

What type of bridge is in the photo above?  What are the different types of bridges built today?  What about bridges of the past? How are bridges designed to support weight?  Does the geology and geography of an area influence the bridge design?  Covered bridges…definitely another blog about that!

Lots of authentic research, lots of possible authentic projects:  building a model bridge; writing about the history of bridges; creating a slide show about famous bridges, why they are famous, and where they are located; creative writing about bridges (Three Billy Goats Gruff might be an inspiration).  Actually, how many children’s stories feature a bridge…adult stories…movies…?

Authentic Project Ideas – Fences

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Driving along a country road in Virginia, I ran across a beautiful split rail fence.  It was part of the fencing around a Civil War battlefield.  I started to think about these split rail fences, and the reasons why fences were constructed that way in centuries past.  Then I started to think about modern fences, some that are really beautiful and fit in with the landscape, and some really ugly fences.

An authentic project might be to research the history of fences.  How about a catalog of all of the ways fences have been, and are currently built. Or maybe, how the local environment impacts what materials are used in fences.  (Years ago, I saw wonderful playgrounds in Iceland that were carved into the lava flows, the surrounding lava becoming the “fence.”)  How about what fences are popular today and why?

A fantastic authentic project might be to design a modern, affordable, environmentally friendly fence that is not ugly!  Perhaps this might lead to a future venture/business into actual fence design and production!

Fences are used to keep dogs in yards.  There are many interesting breeds of dogs.  Do different breeds require different types of fences (material/height)? Remember – authentic learning means that a student’s passion may change the direction of the project.  If talking about fences leads to an in depth project about dog shows and how fencing and enclosures are used at these shows – that IS authentic learning!