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!
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!
Caverns and caves. What secrets do they hold? What are the most famous caverns and caves? Why? Where are they located? What is the difference between a cavern and a cave? How do they form? How long do they take to form? Are they still forming/changing? What is the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite? How do they form? How long do they take to form? What is a spelunker?
Lots of research…lots of directions this could go as an authentic project. You may end up with student created stalactites and stalagmites, a student created cavern… or a student written novel about a lost treasure found in a cave…
Why did the Japanese give Cherry Blossom trees to the city of Washington, D.C.?
What is the story behind the gift? Do the trees represent something? Are Cherry Blossom trees well suited for the D.C. climate, was that why they were chosen?
What tree would be a good gift from one country to another? Have other countries received trees as gifts? What kind of tree would make a good gift for a special birthday? Why is a tree a good gift? How can you gift a tree to someone?
So many questions that might lead to an authentic project. And if you end up the proud owner of a special tree in a big pot in your home, or in your yard, you can thank me later!
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!
Balancing more than one student in an authentic project can be a little tricky. With authentic learning you want each child to be able to explore and follow leads that interest them. So, what do you do if you introduce a topic and then your students go off in different directions.
Even if you are working with a small group, it can be a challenge to follow each student on their journey. You also don’t want to lose control of the project.
The important thing is to keep in mind what your objective is. If you introduced a project about the ukulele, and one of your goals was for your students to create a time line about the history of the ukulele, you need to decide what you really want your students to learn. If the concept of developing a time line is the objective, then that is what you focus on. So, if one student stays with the ukulele, one goes with a flute, the third get interested in marching bands, and the fourth moves from marching bands to football, they all can create a time line about the history of their interest. Even in a large class, everyone can be working on time lines.
If it is important that all students learn about the ukulele, this can also branch out into the history of the ukulele (history buffs), writing music for the ukulele (musical talents), building a ukulele (construction fans)…
Just keep in mind what you actually want/need to accomplish as a teacher, and then let your students fulfill your goals following their passions.
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!
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.
Student Designed and Constructed Artifact Display
One of the most important goals of teaching authentically is to have the student own the project or experience. So, the very last thing that you would want to do is to buy expensive kits or materials. As a matter of fact, you really don’t want to purchase anything. The whole point is to have the student explore something and come up with their own approach and materials for the project.
While working on the Martian Colony Project we supplied nothing beyond standard classroom supplies. The kids found most of the materials they needed for the project. Most were recyclables and discarded items from around the house. We had an unlimited supply of cardboard boxes (most with the Amazon Logo on the side – no shortage of those). Lots of aluminum foil (for an outer-space look). Cardboard rolls, empty cans, newspapers, magazines, buttons…you name it and the kids found it. They were constantly researching (reading), planning (writing), and designing (math); figuring out creative ways to build what they wanted for the colony.
The creativity was amazing, the research was outstanding, the academic growth was huge. The concepts were internalized and owned by the students. The experience was authentic.