I have written about this story before, but it is so important to me that I feel I should repeat it at the holiday season.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, my great-grandfather gave me face powder as a holiday gift. He was in his 90s and had no idea that pre-teen girls didn’t wear face powder. After he left, I expressed my disappointment to my mother, in tears – my usual mode of pre-teen communication. Instead of lecturing me that I should be grateful or telling me I was spoiled etc, my mother agreed that this was not a great gift for a girl my age. She didn’t offer to replace it, instead she suggested we find an older woman who might not be getting gifts for the holidays, and donate this to her. After some discussion, my mother, brothers, and I decided to find an entire family that we could donate gifts to for the holidays.
This was before the internet, and giving-trees etc, and it was actually not easy to find out how to accomplish this. But my mother persevered, and we found a family in need, bought and wrapped gifts, and delivered them to the family – including the face powder that started this all.
We continued this throughout my entire childhood, and as adults have all continued this tradition with our own families. I can’t imagine a holiday season where giving to some one in need isn’t a part of it. It is definitely my favorite part of the holidays.
So authentic project idea – brainstorm with your class, children, family a way to give back this holiday season. Something as simple as a home-made card can really brighten up someone’s holiday.
We recently took our grandchildren out to breakfast. We were waiting for our food when a robot appeared to deliver food to the next table. Needless to say, our grandchildren were thrilled, and I was immediately writing a blog post in my head!
There are so many authentic project ideas I can think of that involve robots. Reading about robots, writing a proposal for a robot, designing a robot, building a robot…
A topic we have discussed a great deal within my family, is how the pandemic and the current labor shortage has pushed the use of robots a decade or more ahead. It was inevitable, but the use of robots has definitely accelerated. Is this all a good thing? What are the positive aspects of this? What are the negative?
So much to authentically think about, research, debate…
And sadly, our food was delivered by a human, much to the disappointment of our grandchildren.
I can not think of one good reason why anyone would want to do an authentic project about snakes. I can’t even think of a good authentic project about snakes! I don’t care why we need snakes. I don’t care how they contribute to a balanced ecosystem. I don’t care if they fascinate many students and would be a great authentic project for them to work on…learning about what snakes contribute, learning about types of snakes, poisonous snakes, big snakes, little snakes… I don’t care that a great driving question would be, “Why are so many people afraid of snakes?”
This is my son-in-law’s dog Mollie. She loves to spend time up in Pennsylvania with us, as she much prefers the retirement life to her life at home with two toddlers! When my husband walks her, he always gets asked the same question, “What kind of dog is she?” We are pretty sure she is part bull dog, but not sure what the other part is.
There are so many authentic projects that learners could do about dogs. How many types of breeds are there? How can you tell what breed a dog is? What have dogs been used for historically? When did they become family pets?
And if a learner wants to do a project about cats instead, that is what authentic learning is all about. (And before I met Mollie, I wondered why everyone just didn’t have a cat.) There is another authentic project, dogs versus cats! Why are people “dog people?” Why are people “cat people?” What is the ratio of dogs to cats as pets?
*We asked our daughter if she ever was going to do genetic testing to see what type of dog Mollie actually is, and the answer was, “No, she is a dog.” (Translation…$$ not happening.)
This is a photo I took on a recent trip to Kinzua Bridge State Park. A tornado tore apart this railroad bridge in 2003. The standing part of the bridge was reinforced and is now a walkway with a fantastic view of the park. You also see the power, and devastation, of a tornado.
A photograph can be used to be the inspiration for a prompt or question to start an authentic project. There are many prompts/driving questions I can think of from looking at this photo.
How strong would a tornado most likely need to be to do this kind of damage? How are tornadoes rated? Is this similar to how we categorize hurricanes? Why do we have State Parks/National Parks? Write a story about what happened here…
Depending on what your goals are, this could lead to learning and exploration about tornadoes, hurricanes, conservation, creative writing…honestly, the sky is the limit.
And just to brag a little, there were several dogs at the entrance to the walkway who refused to go out on the bridge, but our grand-dog ran right out on the bridge and loved it!
Teaching our children that they can make an authentic difference is something that I think is really important. There are so many current problems we have on our planet. And it can seem like, “why bother,” we really can’t make a difference. But we can! If everyone just tried to make a bit of a difference, think of the changes that we could make.
Our planet desperately needs trees planted. There are many, many groups that are planting trees. A great authentic project would be to learn why we need trees, what we use trees for, what are all the different types of trees… Then involving our students in either planting trees, or fundraising for groups that are planting them. Tons of authentic reading, math, science, social studies… Learning and a good cause – can’t beat that!
I live in the heart of Amish country in Central Pennsylvania. Because of this, I have interacted with the Amish and learned a great deal about their culture.
They are a fascinating group of people. The more I know about them, the more I want to learn. There are definitely some things they do, and believe in, that I would like to try to incorporate into my life, and some things I would not. (Totally not interested in giving up my washing machine and dryer.) But, isn’t that true for everyone. And isn’t it true that the more we learn, understand, and appreciate other people, the better we will get along.
I think a great authentic project for students in my area would be to learn about the Amish. What group(s) of people who practice different or unique religions, customs, or ideas are in your area? And what are your students interested in learning about these people? It won’t and shouldn’t be the same for every student. I am especially interested in Amish clothing. My friend down the street is interested in Amish cooking. Both topics are authentic and can lead to further discovery on different topics.
And just let me say…I do NOT want the Amish recipe for those little chocolate donuts stuffed with peanut butter filling. I have worked too hard to lose weight this year to get my hands on that recipe!
I remember constantly hearing stories about acid rain when I was in school. It seems that you really don’t hear much about acid rain anymore. What is acid rain exactly? Is it still a problem? Has it been “absorbed” by other categories of pollution problems? What causes it? What can we do to help prevent it? Has the problem been solved?
This is a topic that can easily be used from preschool (a discussion of clean versus dirty water) through high school and beyond (what is the chemical composition of acid rain).
However, if the teaching is really authentic, then this needs to be more than just a discussion/study of acid rain, the causes and effects, etc. Authenticity means it is real and counts for each student. Is there something that is currently happening in your community that is causing acid rain? Is there something in your community causing pollution? How does this impact your students? What can they do to authentically make a difference?
If a discussion about acid rain becomes an authentic project about pollution and cleaning up a local baseball field so that softball can be played on it…that is authentic teaching and learning.
My husband and I just returned from a fantastic trip to Disney World. We went specifically to visit Galaxy’s Edge, the new Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Even with the entire population of Earth and at least one other planet in the park, it was a super experience. (It was great to see everyone out and about after the isolation of the last two years.) We waited in line for two hours for Rise of the Resistance, and it was totally worth it. I still have a smile on my face.
What Disney is now doing is the total immersion experience and it reminded me so much of authentic learning. We even found out that the University of Central Florida (near Disney World) is offering a degree in Total Immersion Design. How cool is that!
So teaching authentically, which is teaching using as much immersion as possible, has now entered the entertainment industry as total immersion. The theory being that total immersion is the way to engage the audience as much as possible. Engaged audiences retain the experience and want to return for more. Engaged students retain what they have learned and want to learn more…
On a recent road trip my husband and I spent the night in a little town just off the highway in Virginia. We ate dinner next to the hotel at one of the best Mexican restaurants we’ve ever been to…thank goodness we live six hours away or I would gain a ton of weight.
After dinner we decided to drive ten miles up the road to a memorial commemorating the birthplace of Stephen F. Austin, who is considered the father of the State of Texas. It was just a simple stone marker with three flags; Virginia, Texas, and the United States.
When we returned to the hotel, both my husband and I read about Stephen F. Austin. We also read about the history of iron mining in this area of the country, as the memorial explained that the Austins moved to Virginia to mine iron. We both learned a great deal about Stephen F. Austin, Texas, and iron mining.
So what is the point of this blog, besides the fact that I have zero control when it comes to Mexican food…
It’s the authentic experience that spurs real learning. Stopping at a simple memorial marker opened up several lines of conversation for us. Yes, we are adults (not according to our adult children, who think we have regressed back to being teenagers). But, the same kind of simple stops engage children as well (and adults who have regressed). Make it real, make it count.