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…?
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!
One photograph can be the jumping off point for an authentic project. What was this? Who built it? When? Why? What happened to it? (history/research – reading)
Where was this photo taken? (geography) What clues are in the photo to help you figure this out? (botany/geology)
Design and build a model of what you think this structure was. (math) Creative writing story starter? (writing)…
What is the history of the umbrella? When was the umbrella invented? What have umbrellas been used for? (Umbrellas are being used in a very creative way in the above photograph.)
Authentic Research – You might be surprised at the lengthy history of the umbrella.
Authentic Project – Maybe a student can design a better umbrella. Or create a beautiful umbrella. Develop a timeline for the history of the umbrella. Or maybe the above photograph is an inspiration for a creative writing project.
Or – what causes rain? Remember in authentic learning students often end up exploring a related/different topic inspired by the original topic. Umbrellas shield a person from rain, so what causes rain? What causes a drought? Can we make it rain? What happens when there is a rain delay in a baseball game?…
Authentic Geography – If you want to know where this picture was taken, contact me through my blog, I will be happy to give you some clues!
There are so many authentic projects that can be inspired by bird feeders. Do different kinds of birds need different kinds of feeders? Do different kinds of birds eat different kinds of bird food? Once you start feeding birds it is important to not stop. Why? How about designing and building a bird feeder? (Research/reading, writing, math, science…)
In my neighborhood we have a huge problem with bears feeding from the bird feeders. To the point that we have been asked to not put out bird feeders.
So maybe a great authentic project would be to design a bear-proof bird feeder. Let me know what you come up with – I would love to be able to put up a bird feeder in my backyard!
As I mentioned in another blog, typically we take students on an end-of-unit field trip to see what we just finished learning about. However, places like museums are really a fantastic jumping off point for the start of a project. (Field trips in general are fantastic starting points for projects.) The students certainly need some framework before they visit a museum. But beyond an introductory lesson, the museum itself can be the inspiration for an authentic project.
You never know what that inspiration might be. Years ago, I took a group of students to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Air and Space is my all-time favorite museum! I could not wait to share all of the amazing exhibits with my students. So, what were they most taken with? The super powerful air hand-dryer in the restroom and the futuristic trash compacting-machine in the snack bar. That is what got their attention. That is what blew them away. The automatic machines in the restroom and snack bar.
Initially, I tried to redirect them back to the museum, but then realized I had an authentic experience in the making. So, I let them continue to sit by the trash can and watch people throw their trash in. And I let them make many trips to the restroom to wash and dry their hands. And they went back to school and started to work on proposals and designs for more cool futuristic machines. Reading, writing, math…
So, museums are fantastic authentic resources for projects, you just never know what the inspiration/project might be!
Trains have always fascinated people. There is something about watching a train come down the tracks. Where is it coming from? Where is it going? What is it carrying?
So many authentic project ideas: The history of trains. Who invented the train? In what country did trains first run? How did trains lead to the settlement of the United States? How much cargo is carried by trains in your country/in other countries? What influences the use of trains in a country – harbors/water access for ships, terrain, expense…
What problems are trains facing today? Design a better/faster train? Build a model train. The history of model trains…
What is the inside of Queen Elizabeth’s private train car like? Design a private train car fit for a queen. That would be my project!