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Authentic Learning

2012-2013 Snow Hill Middle School fifth graders plant an organic garden.

Critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and technology integration with real-world relevancy

Authentic learning occurs when students are mastering what they should know and be able to do (the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards) while accomplishing a task or project that has real-world relevancy. "The basic idea is that students are more likely to be interested in what they are learning, more motivated to learn new concepts and skills, and better prepared to succeed in college, careers, and adulthood if what they are learning mirrors real-life contexts, equips them with practical and useful skills, and addresses topics that are relevant and applicable to their lives outside of school," states the Glossary of Education Reform on the website www.edglossary.org. Authentic learning can also be described as "learning while doing." Moreover, like the world of work or college, technology usually serves to help accomplish the task. Here are two examples of authentic learning:

Worcester Technical High School

The Biomedical Science curriculum requires students to design a hypothetical hospital emergency waiting room. To enhance the authentic learning experience, Worcester Tech's Biomedical Science program partnered with the local hospital: Atlantic General Hospital, which was actually considering a remodel of its Emergency Department Waiting Room. The students interviewed AGH's Planning/Operations personnel to identify hospital goals for the redesign. The students took hospital goals and designed an innovative floor plan to meet those goals.  In order to create a virtual model of their waiting room design, Biomedical Science students collaborated with Worcester Tech's Pre-Engineering students who used Autodesk Revit software (used by architects and structural enginneers) to create the redesigned floor plans, renderings, and a 3D model.

The project was presented to AGH leadership. In addition, the project was entered in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow competition involving 2,500 schools across the country. This project earned the top-15 tier and over $30,000 in technology.

Principal: Caroline Bloxom
Teachers: Biomedical Science Teacher Tracy Hunter and Pre-Engineering Teacher Valerie Ziglejeva

Snow Hill Middle School

The fifth grade Life Science curriculum includes a unit on plants and sustainable agriculture. To add an authentic learning experience, the teacher had students build an organic garden on the school campus. The students wrote persuasive letters outlining their garden proposal to the principal. Once approved, students used reading, math, science, and social studies concepts and skills to actualize the garden. They planted corn, pumpkins, cantaloupe, carrots, and green beans - to name a few. The students also developed a plan to donate the harvest to a local charity. This real-life experience exposed students to the significant benefits of growing healthy produce in the agriculturally-rich environment of Worcester County, while encouraging students to engage in environmentally sustainable practices throughout their lives

The project won the Worcester Green Award in the teacher category.

Principal: Chris Welch
Teacher: Emily Taylor, Grade 5