Authentic Project Ideas – Contrails

Contrails

I looked up in the sky a few days ago and saw a patchwork of contrails.  What causes planes to leave contrails?  Why are they more visible on some days?  Can you learn something about a plane from the contrail it leaves?  (Resource: Fantastic videos about contrails on YouTube!)

How many different types of planes are there?  What new planes are currently being designed?  Design a better plane.  (Authentic Learning – start with a discussion of contrails and see where you end up…)

Authentic Project Ideas – Trees

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This picture got me thinking about trees.  In this picture there is an evergreen  and a deciduous tree.  What is the difference between the two types of trees?  Where are they commonly found.

An authentic project could be a photo-journal of types of trees.  Evergreens vs. deciduous.  Are all evergreens conifers?  Are all conifers evergreens?  Varieties of both types.  Why are different trees suited for different climates?  Why do deciduous trees lose their leaves?

What category does the palm tree fall into? Why is the palm suited to the tropics and subtropics (hint – hurricanes).  Where are the best places to vacation in the topics? (Remember in authentic learning the point is that the child learns and grows – so if a project about trees turns into a project about vacation destinations that is authentic!)

There are also groups that will give you a sapling to plant in your yard in order to encourage tree growth.  Do a search on line to find a give-away event near you. Plant a tree, learn about it, track its growth… Why are trees so important?

Years ago, if you sent in a box top from Lucky Charms cereal to General Mills, they would send you a sapling to plant in your yard (limit one per family). So true confession, we sent in many box tops and used our friends’ addresses who didn’t want trees.  We planted our entire backyard with these saplings and watched them grow for the next twenty years.  We no longer own that home and I couldn’t find a picture of our old backyard.  But it was a fantastic authentic experience for our kids to learn about those trees and why trees are important, to plant those trees, and to watch them grow.  (Please don’t report me to General Mills!)

Authentic Project Ideas – Caterpillars

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OK, never thought I would blog about a caterpillar, not my cup of tea.  But this guy was too amazing to pass up.  Great photo, if I say so myself.

So, tell me about this guy!  Will he turn into a butterfly?  What kind of caterpillar is he?  Or is he a she?  Hmm…  So much authentic research to do!  So many different authentic ways to present your findings: photo journal, science log, slide show, labeled diagram, model, presentation about the life cycle of the caterpillar…

And, why is this caterpillar green?  Is it natural camouflage?  What other animals have natural camouflage?  Do they change seasonally? How is camouflage used in nature? How are military uniforms designed to incorporate camouflage?  Authentic learning… research on caterpillars sends your students down the path to research on camouflage… Fantastic!

 

Authentic Project Ideas – Castles

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I was recently asked for project ideas for “Castles.”  I took me about ten seconds to realize that this was a fantastic authentic project topic.

There are so many ways to approach this.  Designing and building a model castle based on historical research.  Castle life, past versus present.  Castle design, past versus present.  (Do we have modern day castles?)

Clothing people wore in castles in the past.  Status and clothing.  How was clothing made in the past?  Food, recreation…

Creating a government system for a castle based on the history and time period selected…

Do all castles have kings and queens?  The history of a royal family – remember with authentic learning you have a starting point, but if “Castles” turns into a project about the history of a royal family – that is authentic learning!

Europe has castles galore.  Asia?  The rest of the continents?  Why aren’t there thousand-year-old castles (ruins) in North America?  Cataloging castles around the world…

I could keep going with this one forever.  Tons of opportunity for authentic reading, writing, math, social studies, science (physics – how did those trebuchets work?)

And please keep in mind that I have always fancied being a queen, so I volunteer to serve as the queen in your castle!

 

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!

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).

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…?