I recently ate at a restaurant which was decorated with ukuleles. I really know very little about ukuleles. Where were they invented? Where are they popular? What is the difference between a ukulele and a guitar? Do they tend to be played for a specific kind of music?
Projects could include a timeline history of the ukulele. Perhaps comparing and contrasting string instruments. Building a string instrument. Learning to play a string instrument. Writing music for a string instrument. Performing on a string instrument. Researching the history of the flute – remember for true authentic learning, the project is driven by student interest. If your student is not interested in ukuleles, this can be a jumping off point for another musical instrument. If this leads to a discussion about marching bands, which leads to a discussion about football, which leads to a project about football…that is authentic learning!
I live about four hours from Washington, D.C. The city is full of wonderful monuments for just about anything and everything. Some are fascinating, some are informative, some entertaining, and many extremely solemn.
Behind every monument is a story. I have had the privilege to travel and visit many countries, and the one thing that all countries have are monuments. And every monument tells a story.
Monuments could definitely inspire an authentic project. A monument might inspire a student to research more about the person or event that the monument honors. It might inspire a project about constructing monuments. Or it might inspire a student created monument to a person or event that a student wishes to honor. Lots of jumping off points.
*If you look closely at the picture of the Washington Monument at the bottom of this blog, you will notice the color of the stone changes about one-third of the way up…Why? Interesting authentic story to research…
Quilt by Chris Staver
As I have often mentioned in my blog, so many different things can inspire an authentic project. A girlfriend of mine creates amazing quilts. I call what she does “painting with fabric.” I was at a museum exhibition of her work recently. Several of her quilts have environmental themes. One of her quilts depicts toxic waste drums. (Unusual for a quilt, and absolutely incredible work!) This got me thinking about waste management.
We produce so much waste on our planet that we need to dispose of. There are several ways a project could look at this issue. Ideas about how to produce less waste. Recycling ideas, disposal ideas…
The important thing to remember when teaching authentically is the starting point is just that, a starting point. If somehow this project turns into recycling old cookbooks, which results in the use of, or the improvement of, an old recipe…that is exactly what authentic teaching and learning is. The goal is for the student to read, write, use math, investigate, produce…
When students are engaged, they learn!
Who invented the donut? Why do donuts have holes? How do you make donuts?
Authentic projects often start with a few simple questions and end with a student developed recipe for delicious tasting zero calorie donuts! ( My blog…my fantasy!)
The picture at the top of this post and the picture at the bottom of this post were taken on the same day. And they were both taken on the same island in Hawaii!
How is that possible? Snow in the tropics? On the same day the young lady went from short sleeves to a winter coat? (Hint – she was high up on a mountain at an observatory in the second picture.)
So, what impacts weather? How many places can you think of where someone could wear a summer outfit and a winter outfit during the same day? Take the authentic learning experience from here…it may end up being a long authentic project about what impacts the weather or a short authentic research experience about what the young lady is standing inside of in the top picture. Or maybe even a huge authentic project about the Hawaiian Islands. With authentic learning you never know where you will end up! Aloha!
While searching for information on the United States Mint, I accidentally ended up on a site that sold coins. (Don’t you love how companies set up domain names with one different letter from another domain, hoping you will type a wrong letter and end up at their site – and maybe not even notice.) Once I realized I was on the wrong site, I was fascinated by the price of coins. What makes a coin extra valuable? Some of the current coins were still in circulation, why would anyone pay more for a coin that they could still get for face value in circulation? What is a “proof” coin? Do the pictures a country places on its coins (and/or paper currency) tell you something about that country?
I was then reminded of the coin collection I had as a child, and how much fun it was to collect coins. I learned so much about geography and was constantly using math without even realizing it. (Value of foreign currency, exchange rates, saving my allowance to buy a coin I really wanted…)
So many questions, so many possible authentic teaching moments, and maybe even an authentic project…
A simple question or picture can lead to a huge project. My Martian Colony Project (all school year for four years) started with a NASA video. But authentic teaching doesn’t always lead to a project and that is fine. Authentic teaching sometimes means a student answers a question and then moves on. You can’t force that spark of interest that becomes an authentic project.
The above photo is of Haleakala Crater on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Research about what caused this crater and how the Hawaiian Islands formed (and are still forming) might lead to a short project, a huge project, or no project at all. As long as students are researching and learning, that is all that matters.
A really important teaching strategy we learned early in our journey with authentic teaching was not to answer student questions. If a student asked how the Hawaiian Islands formed, we did not simply give them an answer. Very little learning takes place when students are simply given answers. We usually responded with, “That is a great question! Where do you think we can find information about that?” We would then guide them to a good starting place for research. This is one of the most important skills we can give students today. Students no longer need to memorize facts and answers to questions. Everything we need to know is literally at our fingertips – on our cell phones! What students need to know is how to go about finding the information they want and then what they should do with that information.
Where would be a good place to look for information about how the Hawaiian Islands formed? That is a great question! Let me know what you find out! And let me know if this becomes a starting point for an authentic project…