Authentic Project Ideas – Mardi Gras

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Back in February, I spent some time in Louisiana and Mississippi. I knew Louisiana, with its French history, celebrated Mardi Gras, and I thought this was the only place in the US that did. I was very surprised to find out there were also Mardi Gras celebrations in Mississippi. I assumed this was because Mississippi was next to Louisiana.

I think the reason that authentic teaching and learning so resonates with me, is that I was taught this way in elementary school (stone age, chisels on stone – the trip through the south was to celebrate my 65th birthday). At an early age, I was encouraged to never assume, to question, research, and learn.

So, back at the hotel, after a particularly productive day of shopping for Mardi Gras beads in Louisiana, I looked up Mardi Gras. What was supposed to be a quick hit on the topic turned into an evening of reading. (During the stone age, you had to find an encyclopedia, or a library…I am still amazed at what I can access in the palm of my hand.)

One search on my phone led to another. I went off in the direction of the history of the early French explorers in North America – I had forgotten that Louisiana originally included much of the south and mid-west. This explained why they were celebrating Mardi Gras in Mississippi. Then, I went off in the direction of the religious significance of Mardi Gras and how it is celebrated in many different places in the US, and in many other countries, not just France. I started to read about some of these countries and their traditions, but I needed to charge my phone!

Start with a picture of Mardi Gras beads. Turn your students loose. Let them authentically question, authentically research, and authentically learn.

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