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…?
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!
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.
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!)
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.
Looking down off of a moving cruise ship – the pilot has just jumped off and is being helped by a crew member on the pilot boat.
I was recently talking about how amazing big ships are – how those gigantic machines can be so carefully maneuvered. The person I was chatting with didn’t realize that pilots hopped on and off moving ships to bring them into and out of ports. I knew a lot about ship pilots because one happened to live in my mother’s apartment building in Fort Lauderdale.
Several ways an authentic project about ships could go, and probably many more depending on student interest. How do these large ships work? What are the mechanics and technology on a ship? What are all of the jobs that people have who work on ships? (That is a long and fascinating list, including the pilot mentioned above.) All of these questions have different answers depending on the type of ship the student is interested in – Cruise Ship, Merchant Ship, Naval Ship…
Plan a trip, design a better ship, plan a career…
While on a recent journey through the northeastern waterways of the United States and Canada, I saw one small island after another. Thinking back on the authentic project I was involved with about establishing a colony on Mars, I started to imagine what it would be like to survive on one of these islands. What would I need to survive? What would I eat, what kind of shelter would I need, what kinds of clothes would I need? (OK-this is definitely a fictitious authentic project as personally I need a five-star hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine, with plenty of lobster, and lovely clothes available in the local boutiques-but I digress…)
This project would vary based on where the island was located as needs would be different based on climate, natural resources, etc.
I recently returned from a journey where I saw many wonderful and enchanting lighthouses. There are so many different questions that I thought about while enjoying all of these lighthouses. How do they work? What purpose do they serve? How did they operate in the past? How and why are lighthouses built today?
What would I include in a lighthouse if I designed one? (My lighthouse would resemble a five-star hotel – just saying.)
There are so many interesting stories about lighthouses of the past that could be a jumping off point for authentic projects. I heard about a lighthouse keeper in Portland, Maine who became bored with just tending the lighthouse. He began to carve wooden horses that he sold for 75 cents to the local market. Today these horses are worth thousands of dollars each. An authentic project could be to develop other ways to pass the time while tending a lighthouse.
While purchasing a memento of the Egg Rock Lighthouse in Bar Harbor, Maine, the charming woman at the cash register introduced herself as the granddaughter of the last keepers of that lighthouse. She briefly shared her story with me. I wish I had had time to hear more about her grandparents! Another jumping off point for an authentic project, reading stories about past lighthouse keepers, and perhaps creating a compilation, journal, or even writing new stories based on past stories – endless possibilities… Grace, whose grandparents tended the Egg Rock Lighthouse near Bar Harbor, Maine
Available on Amazon. Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
I am very excited to announce that my book about Authentic Learning with my former and forever principal, Peggy Pastor, is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions. Click on the Amazon link above to check it out!
One School’s Journey tells the story of an elementary school in Maryland, in the suburbs near Washington, D.C. The school’s student population is extremely diverse, with students representing many races, socio-economics levels, and academic abilities. The path towards the use of authentic projects to teach and reach this diverse population is chronicled by the two authors – Eleanor K. Smith (me), a teacher, and Margaret Pastor, the building principal.
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 the students.
This book is about the journey of the staff at our elementary school, as we set down the path to discover how to engage our students. What was not a surprise, was that when children are engaged, they learn. And authentic projects engage the learner. Our hope is that the reader will find inspiration from what we discovered along the way.