Penn State University April 2, 2020
We are all living through a historical event of world-wide impact. As with all history, we learn from what we experience, and should record these lessons for the future.
Keeping a diary, log, or photo-journal of current events about COVID-19 is an authentic way to record history in the making. It is also a way to open up honest communication with our children about what is happening. Honest age-appropriate communication to stress the importance of what is happening, while allaying overwhelming fears. Even young children can keep a photo-journal of current events, without focusing on the parts they are not old enough to process and handle.
There are unbelievable pictures of empty streets in cities throughout the world. Scenes that most of us have never seen in our lifetime. This is an opportunity to learn more about our world, our inter-dependence, and develop a greater appreciation for others. This is a time to increase our humanity.
The focus of my blog is authentic learning. Make it real and make it count. There is no better way to teach and learn. Education is also the key to understanding, and understanding helps replace fear with rational thought and action.
Stay Safe, Stay Well
With approximately one-third of the world’s population under some sort of restrictions, there is no better time to reach out to relatives, neighbors, and friends who are feeling isolated.
I have been making and sending cards out to people I know, and the reception has been humbling. It is amazing the difference getting a card in the mail can make to someone feeling isolated and alone. And it also helps me to feel less isolated, by reaching out to others.
Our children are feeling isolated as well. This is a great time for children to make cards for others. Not only are they authentically learning about giving and compassion for others, making the cards will help them feel less isolated. (And they are also authentically practicing writing skills.)
Don’t forget to have them address the envelope – possible authentic geography lesson. They should also put on the postage – this may lead to an authentic project about the cost of mailing letters, the history of stamps, stamp collecting…
For teenagers, they might want to make and send cards to nursing homes and thank you cards to hospital staff and first-responders. They can do the research for what they would like to do, find addresses, etc.
And the above photo is a virtual “thinking of you” card for all of you. Stay well!
I have always felt that authentic projects are the best way to teach. With so many parents being called upon to educate their children at home, I wanted to reach out again to offer the ideas on my blog.
I started this blog as a way to share my passion, authentic teaching and learning. I retired a few years ago, and I was ready to slow down. But, I found that I still needed an outlet as a teacher. My blog allows me to continue to share the ideas that I have about how to authentically educate children.
Thank you for allowing me to share my passion. Best wishes to everyone and stay healthy.
I know many (most) of the children we educate are currently learning at home. Projects work beautifully in the home. But don’t forget that authentic learning doesn’t need to be a big involved project. Every day activities are great times for authentic teaching and learning. Cooking is full of reading and math. (I still can’t do math problems unless I picture cooking and/or food in my head!) Planning and implementing a schedule for the day. Writing a grocery list. Estimating the cost of everything in the grocery cart. (My grandmother used to say, “Just count the items in the cart and multiply by 50¢.” Great authentic lesson in inflation!)
I joke that I was the laziest teacher and parent on the planet. If the kids could do something, why should I do it. The truth of the matter is I was doing some really good teaching and parenting, if I say so myself. Honestly, it is more work to have your kids do something. As an adult I could do it neater and faster. If your child is writing a grocery list and you are having to help prompt or spell, it takes twice as long. But if you write the list you are missing an authentic learning moment – on so many levels!
I hope everyone is safe and well.
Best to All, Ellie
Flying down to Florida recently, we had an amazingly clear day. We could see the ground for almost the entire flight. In all my years of flying down to Florida (I grew up in South Florida) I have never seen views like this. The picture above is a photo of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in Central Florida. You can see two launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building, and the shuttle landing strip!
This, of course, got me thinking about authentic projects. So many ways to go just using this photo as a prompt.
Why were we able to see so much on this flight? I have flown this flight dozens and dozens of times and never had this view. What was different about the weather? What might have caused this?
Or…what is currently being constructed in the Vehicle Assembly Building? What mission is being planned?
Or…why was the cape built right on the ocean? Weather? Safety? Politics? (That certainly entered into play for the location of the Johnson Space Center and Mission Control in Houston.)
Or…how many NASA centers are there in the United States? What is the mission of each center? What space programs exist in other countries? Segue into the International Space Station.
Create a timeline of all space missions that have happened. Identify them by countries involved. Locate these countries on a map. Learn about the history of the space programs in these countries. Write a report, create a chart or graph…
Design and build a model rocket. Design and build a model for a new space station. Plan a new mission…
The sky (and beyond) is the limit with this photo and authentic projects that it might inspire…
First of all, let me just state, that my husband took this photo in Everglades National Park in South Florida and I think he was way too close to that gator! (OK…he was on an official park tour and the guide told them how close they could get…and he followed all the rules…and Great-Grandma was with him…but…Are You Kidding Me!)
That being said, I tend to get most of my blog ideas from photos that either I have taken, or that family members or friends give me. It is amazing how many ideas you can get from a photo. If you think about it, photos are visual memories of what we have seen and done. I really don’t think I would come up with a quarter of the ideas I have without looking at photos.
So when I saw this photo (after my initial horror) I thought about all the interesting authentic projects you could do about alligators. Basic facts about alligators. How they live. Where they live. What they eat…
Their history in South Florida has been one of near extinction to the re-population of the species. How was this accomplished? Why was this important? Most people react to gators the way I do. Why do we care if a species like the alligator becomes extinct? (Great authentic lessons here about humanity, ecosystems, and the interdependency of species.)
How is an alligator different from a crocodile? Where are alligators found? Crocodiles?
Lots of ways to go with this…and just remember…snap that picture and run!
I was finished posting my weekly Saturday blog when I started to scroll down and look at all of the posts on my blog. I was thinking that perhaps I should refine my menu, and file the posts under whether they focused on reading, writing, math, science, social studies…
Then I realized that is exactly what you want to avoid in authentic teaching and learning. Projects start with a driving question or a prompt, and then they go from there. One of the most important parts of authentic teaching is to listen to your students, pay attention to what they are saying, and give some gentle guidance and suggestions as to what path they might follow to accomplish their goals. (And also accomplish your own goals as well.) A good project often includes all academic skills – certainly reading for research, writing notes and/or presentations, math calculations/graphs…
There was not one project that I worked on with students, that I wasn’t surprised at the end, at how many academic goals we were able to accomplish within the project. And I was also surprised, as I evaluated what we had accomplished, at how much coffee I had consumed to keep up with our students as they authentically explored and grew as learners. It was impressive!