Authentic Project Ideas – Blue Pumpkins

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So, this one kind of stumped me.  I had never seen blue pumpkins before, until I stumbled upon these in a local market.  (Maybe I have been living a sheltered life.)  Are blue pumpkins new or have they been around for a while?  How do you grow a blue pumpkin?  What other color pumpkins can you find?

Where do pumpkins grow best?  What part of the pumpkin do we eat?  What can the seeds be used for?

Create a display about different kinds of pumpkins.  Bake a pumpkin pie.  Predict how many seeds are inside a pumpkin.  Bake the pumpkin seeds.  Create pumpkin art with the seeds.  Bake something using the inside of an actual pumpkin (not canned pumpkin).

How did the Jack-O-Lantern tradition start?  What is the history of Halloween?  How did the tradition of eating pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving in America start?  What are Fall Holiday traditions in other countries?

And…upon researching blue pumpkins I stumbled across information about these pumpkins.  Blue pumpkins are being used to symbolize at least two really thoughtful things for Halloween Trick-or-Treaters.  I am not sure if this is just in America, or in other countries as well that celebrate Halloween.

Lots of authentic questions, lots of starting points for authentic projects.

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 – Elevators

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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).

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 Ideas – 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 Ideas – 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 Ideas – Waste Management

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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 Ideas – 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!)