How does Solar Energy work? I thought I understood how it worked, but when it was explained to me by someone involved in the industry, I was totally surprised to learn that I did not understand it at all.
A great authentic project would be to not only learn about how solar energy works, but to think about ways to improve it. Even the youngest learners can understand the basics of solar energy. Learners can also draw diagrams or make authentic models of how solar energy works. Or maybe even propose other alternative ways to create energy.
And remember that if this project turns into a discussion and plan of how to conserve energy, and that leads to planning a way to track energy consumption – that is authentic learning!
As I have stated many times, I am passionate about Authentic Learning. It is the reason I started my blog after I retired. I was ready to stop teaching, but not ready to leave education and something I believe in with all my heart and soul.
I also love photography, and realized that my photos were giving me lots of project ideas. If you stop, look around, and smell the roses, you will be amazed and what you see.
But for a project to be authentic you need to listen, really listen, to your students. What are they thinking about, what do they want to know, what are they interested in. Then you create your driving question, and start to frame your authentic project with experiences that require that your content covers your curriculum objectives.
Authentic teaching requires planning, but that planning needs to revolve and change based on what your students are interested in. Plan a lesson, watch your student engagement, listen to their interests and questions, and change course if necessary.
Teaching authentically involves giving yourself that time to reflect and smell those roses. It is so important to good teaching and much more pleasant way to go through life!
Toys and games of the past were made out of wood. There were so many simple, yet fun games, that were played in the past. What were some of these games? When and where were they created? Who played them?
Create a new authentic board game. Make the game board. (Cardboard is fine if you don’t happen to be a wood carver!) Create your own rules. Teach the game to your friends.
And if it is a game that can be played over Zoom, if you make one and send it to your friends as well – even better!
In response to one of my posts, several people asked some great questions. How do you manage students going off in different directions with their authentic projects? How do you meet your objectives?
Several people responded with great answers. I am adding my thoughts and paraphrasing what was said. (Thank you to everyone who answered these questions, both on Facebook and on my blog.)
What we found when we had students going off in several directions with authentic projects was that we were able to group them into smaller groups based on their interests. Some groups were larger, some were small, and some students really wanted to work alone, which was fine. But I don’t remember a time that we were managing more than a handful of groups, which honestly is not that hard to do when kids are engaged and motivated.
To meet objectives, make authentic project milestones require that your content covers your objectives. For example, if you students are designing and building model cars, and you have an objective to cover motion, friction, and energy, then have a project milestone be to race the cars and insert a discussion of motion, friction, and energy into the follow-up of the race.
Managing authentic projects is work, but it is also a lot of fun, different every day, and never boring. The kids are engaged, and so are the teachers. Can’t beat that!
This was a small, simple Ferris Wheel that I saw at a carnival last summer. It actually looked kind of sad to me – it definitely needed a tad more creativity in the design. Perhaps a theme, a little decoration, something…
Which got me thinking about designing a Ferris Wheel. Students could add creative carriages, etc. And for older students there is the engineering behind Ferris Wheels. The history of Ferris Wheels, famous Ferris Wheels…
And always remember that this is just the starting point. If a student ends up doing research on the clouds seen from the top of the Ferris Wheel – that’s an authentic project!
*We were in London about a decade ago with our children and didn’t ride the London Eye because it was expensive. We are still kicking ourselves!