How many kinds of tropical fish are there? Why are they called tropical fish? Are all tropical fish so bright and colorful? Do all tropical fish live in reefs? What is a reef made of? What is an artificial reef?
So many authentic driving questions. A great authentic project might be to design an artificial reef. This could incorporate many science and math goals. Another authentic project might be to create and take care of a tropical aquarium. (Or not – fish never did well in my classroom – I’m better with plants!)
This is a photo that was taken near the US Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. If you look closely up in the masts, you will see Coast Guard Cadets getting the sails ready. With modern ships, why would these cadets need to learn how to sail an old ship?
A driving question/authentic project could focus on why these cadets need this skill. Or it could focus on old versus modern ships. Or what it means to have a career in the Coast Guard. Or perhaps designing a dream yacht…
Maybe this photo could inspire a creative writing project about sailing, or pirates!
What this photo will not inspire is – me ever being photographed that high up on anything!
Caught this guy climbing up a tree near my Mom’s home in South Florida. He was about 80 feet long. Ok – he was actually about two feet long – but he was one big iguana!
I grew up in South Florida and we always saw plenty of little lizards running around – most without tails as our cats liked to bite the tails off. But we never saw these huge iguanas until almost half a century later. Driving Question: What changed? Why were we seeing these huge iguanas all over South Florida?
Other authentic project ideas for younger children could be to learn about the iguana.
And I have always wondered, did those lizard tails ever grow back? Poor things…
This photo was taken by a hiker I happen to know. Not so sure I would have hiked through this! How did the rocks get into this formation? How would you know it was safe to hike through? What kind of rocks are these? Where did the beautiful colors come from?
So many authentic questions. This photo could lead to authentic projects about rock formations, types of rocks, best hiking trails in your area, equipment needed for hiking, hiking safety, beauty in nature… And I’ll be participating in my favorite, much safer pastime while my husband hikes…on-line shopping!
Make it real and make it count. That is the mantra of authentic teaching and learning. But does “real” really mean “real”?
The photo above is from a Virtual Science Fair on Mars. While creating the Martian Colony, we decided to hold a Virtual Science Fair – on Mars! We learned about the scientific process and the kids all came up with a question and hypothesis, and a proposal for conducting an experiment on Mars. They then built a model showing what their experiment might look like on Mars.
Our focus was teaching the concept of hypothesis. So many times, we see Science Fair entries that are really reports, not experiments. So, with this group of fifth-graders we took the process apart and focused on each piece throughout the year. The kids were graded on whether or not they wrote a hypothesis. In the end, most of them went way beyond that.
The Science Fair may have been “Virtual” in that we really were not on Mars, but it was real science, and it did count!
*Our favorite entry was the student who wanted to know what would happen if you took a can of soda out on the Martian surface. Her hypothesis was that it would explode because of the extreme cold temperature on Mars. She decided to test this out in her freezer at home. And the can did explode. We hid from that mother when she visited the Virtual Science Fair!
I don’t think I can write too often about cooking. I can’t think of an authentic activity that can inspire so many driving questions and possible authentic projects. I have written before about using cooking to teach math. But you can also teach reading through cooking. And social studies. And science…
Children need to use math to cook. But they also should be looking up and reading recipes. And how about finding special dishes that represent different cultures. Why do people eat different foods in different countries? What grows best in different locations? How does this affect what people cook with and eat? Lots of different and delicious authentic ways to go with cooking! Enjoy!
Several years ago, my husband and I had the privilege of cruising through the Panama Canal. I honestly did not understand how long the canal was until we journeyed through it. I was blown away by how difficult it must have been to dig the canal – the length, the heat, the bugs, just everything involved in this huge undertaking. And it was built over a century ago.
So many possible authentic projects, so many driving questions… Why was the canal built? Why were locks needed? Is the canal still important today? What is the economic impact of the canal. (Looking at the recent impact from the ship blocking the Suez Canal helps answer this question.)
So many authentic ways to present project findings… Create a brochure about the canal. Create a timeline for the canal. Build a model of the canal. Create a map of the canal. Draw a poster explaining how the locks work.
And remember, driving questions and authentic project ideas are only a starting point. If your learner becomes interested in another canal, or the country of Panama, or what is the typical journey of an international shipping container…that is authentic learning!
Early this morning, NASA flew a helicopter on Mars! I think that NASA has had so many successes recently that it is easy to forget how difficult this is, and what a huge historic accomplishment this represents. For the first time, humans have flown an aircraft on another planet!
To be honest, to me this is such a huge event that I can’t even begin to think about an authentic project, or an authentic driving question for a project. I think just talking to students, and gaining an understanding of their questions about this event, should lead to an authentic starting point. And honestly, isn’t that how all authentic projects should start?
Congratulations to NASA on the first flight of Ingenuity!
If you look closely at this photo you will see that the middle house is jacked up on stilts. This house sits across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. Why is this house up on stilts? What are the owners doing? Why would they be doing this? These homes have been here for a long time. What has changed?
These questions could lead to possible projects about the rising ocean and global warming. But if they lead to a project about home restoration, or the tourist industry (these are homes that are vacation rentals) and the impact of COVID-19…that is authentic learning!
I had never seen a wild turkey before. It was so cool to see this flock (are they called a flock) of turkeys on a drive north of where we live.
Looking through my blog photos, I found a picture I had taken of domestic turkeys and was very surprised at the difference. One big difference, literally, was that the domestic turkeys were bigger, as in more meat. In the photos I had, the wild and domestic birds looked to be different colors also.
So, a driving question for an authentic project might be about the differences between wild and domestic turkeys. Or wild and domestic “any animal.” A question/prompt could be about the history of domestication of an animal. This could easily turn into an authentic project about the history of the domestication of dogs and/or cats.
Learners might also be surprised as to how many animals are considered domestic and what the definition of domestic is. I learned this lesson when I entered a gorgeous “blue-ribbon” photo of alpacas into the wild animal category of our county fair and found out after I entered the photo that alpacas are considered domestic animals. I had thought only dogs and cats were considered domestic.
If a project is truly authentic, you start with a photo of wild turkeys and end up with a project about domestication and a future award-winning photo of alpacas. (I let you know how the alpaca photo does in the domestic category next summer!)