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 Idea – Bridges

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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 Idea – Fallingwater

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Fallingwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is one of the most iconic homes of the 20th century.  Wright’s use of surrounding landscape in design was way ahead of his time. His designs were inspirational, amazing, and stunningly beautiful.

The family that owned Fallingwater originally wanted the home to sit on land with a view of the waterfall that was on their property.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home to sit on top of the waterfall.

There are so many authentic projects that Fallingwater could inspire.  A biography and study of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs would be a fascinating project.  Designing and even building a model influenced by his structures would be another fantastic project.

This one really has me intrigued.  I would love to see reports about/photos of authentic projects that might spring from a study of Frank Lloyd Wright and/or Fallingwater!

*Fallingwater is located in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit!

On Line Resources for Projects

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When I first started writing this blog, I had links to several kids’ sites that had a lot of great information.  However, the more I wrote, the more uncomfortable I became with just providing these links.  In authentic teaching and learning, you want the student to own their research.  Providing links to educational sites, even wonderful sites, takes that ownership away from the student.  Ownership is a HUGE part of authentic learning. And students finding their own information on line is part of that ownership.  Even the youngest students can be guided through the steps to find good information on line.

So, after much deliberation, I took the blogs with the links off of my site. It just seemed like it made it too easy, it took the ownership, and excitement, of finding a good source of information away from the kids.  Honestly, some of the best sites I knew about were sites my students had found themselves, and introduced me to.  Like some really, really phenomenal sites!

Kids do, of course, need guidance and often need help to find the information they need for a project.  They need to be taught how to evaluate the source of their information.  Also, be careful to look at what they have found.  Many sites, even with the best of intentions, dumb down their material.  Finding a site about space that has games where you are simply blowing up aliens to score points does not teach a child about space. (It doesn’t teach math either, contrary to what some of these sites claim.)

I have found that government agencies usually have great kids’ sites as part of their website.  For example, go to a government site for weather, and you are bound to find a great website for educators and kids.  Many universities also have great education sites on many topics.

If you and/or your students are really stuck finding some good sites for information for a project, please email me through this blog.  As I have stated often, I am passionate about authentic learning, and am happy to help out.

Authentic Project Idea – Waste Management

ToxicWasteQuiltQuilt 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!

Authentic Project Idea – Donuts

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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!)

One School’s Journey is Shortlisted for the Chanticleer International Book Awards

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I am very excited to announce that One School’s Journey made Chanticleer International Award’s Shortlist for Instruction and Insight Books.  I am so very proud of this book and honored to be on this list.

One School’s Journey tells the story of the discovery and use of authentic projects to reach and teach students. While offering procedure, guidance, and examples, this is not a book of lesson plans.  Our bias is that for true authentic teaching you cannot follow someone else’s lesson plans.  Authentic projects come from the heart and are adapted to meet the needs and interests of students.   Our hope is that the reader will find inspiration from what we discovered as we set down the path to authentic teaching and learning.

One School’s Journey by Eleanor K. Smith and Margaret Pastor is available for free on Kindle Unlimited.  It is also available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.

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