Authentic Project Ideas – Building a Gingerbread House

My son had a math teacher in middle school who was also a national champion ginger bread house designer and builder!  She gave the kids a marvelous assignment for extra credit – to design and build a ginger bread house. 

There was lots of guidance and many suggestions.  She sent home lots of reading material for parents to help them assist with the project.  I am pretty much inept in the kitchen and she sent home enough written support, and did enough instruction with the kids, that I was able to get through this with my son successfully. 

There was tons of authentic math involved…creating the design (scale, angles), measuring the ingredients (fractions, units of measurement), baking temperature and baking time (measuring temperature, elapsed time)…  There were limitless opportunities to bring in authentic math skills.

We continued this as a family tradition for many years. As a mother, I saw it as great family bonding time, especially with teenagers who were difficult to corral into family bonding. As a teacher, I also knew my teenagers were getting great authentic experiences with reading, math, creativity and problem solving.

One year, we even encountered an authentic mystery to solve. We used chocolate mints as shingles on the roof.  We were surprised and a tad confused to see that every morning the shingles had “melted.”  We lived in the north and didn’t overheat our house, so we couldn’t figure out what was happening.  We had lots of hypotheses but none seemed to be the answer.  One night I came downstairs to get something from the kitchen and caught one of our cats happily licking the roof.  Mystery solved!

*The photo above is not the house we built.  It is a professionally created display that is presented yearly at a local hotel. You probably figured that out on your own! 

Authentic Project Ideas – What to do with those Holiday Cards

For the first time, I am making my own holiday cards this year.  I realized while I was doing this, that I have a huge stash of new holiday cards from previous years that I will probably never use.  I did a little digging on line and found out that nursing homes love to receive new holiday cards for their residents to use.

This would be a great authentic project.  Collecting new cards and donating them to a local nursing home.  Finding out which nursing homes or organizations would like cards donated, organizing this, getting the word out, having a drop off spot…

All of these authentic activities could cover many different academic goals. Reading – researching on line. Math – counting, tallying, predicting, graphing. Writing – composing letters/emails to ask for donations, writing to organizations asking if they would like new cards donated. Social Responsibility Skills – donating time and effort for others.

This may also lead to an authentic project of sending greeting cards to residents of a nursing home or hospital.

I also have a collection of cards that I have received over the years. They are just too gorgeous to throw out.   I found out that St. Jude collects used cards to recycle for future use.  Just doing the on-line research is an authentic activity that could lead to many authentic projects.

Safe and Happy Holidays!

Authentic Project Ideas – Hot Air Balloons

How do hot air balloons work?  What makes them rise up in the sky? What is the history of hot air balloons?  When were they first used?  For what purposes? What is the difference between a hot air balloon and a blimp? 

Read about hot air balloons.  Learn about how they work.  Create a poster, photo journal, model, authentic working model…  So many authentic ways to go with this topic…

And to clarify…I took this picture of a balloon flying over my neighborhood.  It is fairly easy to book a ride on this balloon.  And to further clarify…NOT HAPPENING!

Authentic Project Ideas – Cliff Divers

Put this under the project idea category of “you have got to be kidding me!” This is what these folks do for a job.  They dive off of cliffs.  I have never been so glad that I earned my living as a teacher!

This photo was taken in Acapulco.  Our guide told us that none of the divers have ever been seriously injured.  They start out as children and learn to dive off of the lowest rocks and gradually move up. My daughter was a competitive gymnast and it was fascinating to watch how gymnasts learned new skills.  It took years to develop some skills and by the time they were doing them on different apparatus they were so well trained for so long, you really didn’t worry about them getting hurt. 

Still, watching the divers, I held my breath!

So how long does it take for a diver to master the highest cliffs?  Are there cliff divers in other places?  What is the history of the Acapulco cliff divers? (Research, time line, report, display, Power Point…)

Do they use math when they dive?  How?  Could computers be used to make their dives even safer?  How? How are computers used in other sports to improve achievement and safety?

While I really push the idea of authenticity, please don’t authentically dive off of a cliff to research this topic!

Authentic Project Ideas – The History of the Elevator

I did a post about elevators a while back, but this one was too cool to pass up!

We just returned from a historic lodge which had this elevator.  You opened the door and then pulled the gate back to get in.  There were modern elevators in the lodge also, but we went out of our way to always use this one. The only other time I have seen an elevator like this was in Europe years ago. 

So, what is the history of the elevator?  Who invented it? Where was it invented?  (Reading)

Design an elevator (Math).  Construct an elevator (Math).  What will elevators in the future look like (Writing/Math)?  Lots of authentic ways to go with this…up, down…sideways?

Authentic Project Ideas – Designing a Carousel

I saw this whimsical carousel in Boston.  I love the sea-life included in the carousel, so appropriate as Boston is all about seafood!

It would be a fun authentic project to design a carousel (lots of math, lots of writing) and perhaps incorporate a theme from where you live, or what you enjoy, into the carousel.  It could feature famous landmarks, favorite sports, characters from books…

Your students could even build a model of their carousel.  A working model could incorporate the authentic topics of energy and motion.

Maybe even design and build a model amusement park.  With authentic projects the sky – and beyond – is the limit.

Authentic Project Ideas – Creative Recycling

I love entering photos and crafts into our local county Grange Fair (which sadly won’t be taking place this summer due to Coronavirus).  One of my favorite categories to view is the craft category of turning something old into something useful again.  I have never entered, but it is so cool to see what people do.  Old jean shorts turned into purses, t-shirts turned into quilts, glass bottles turned into lamp bases, fronts of old greeting cards turned into new cards…

I saw this at a local restaurant and it reminded me of that category.  Simply taking old horseshoes and turning them into a menu holder on the wall. I don’t think this would be a ribbon winning entry – not overly creative – but it is certainly a really cool authentic way to recycle.

So, authentic project idea – turn something old into something useful again.  Write directions for what you are creating.  Include any needed math.  Maybe somehow turn this into a community service project – creating something to cheer someone up…lots of ways this project could go.  I would love to hear what your learners come up with!