Build a Model Community (3rd grade)
When I was a third grade teacher, I used to build model communities with my class.
I began by making a list of all of the commercial and public buildings a small community might have. Each type of building was written on a separate index card: supermarket, hardware store, gas station, automotive repair, hospital, school, police station, fire station, post office, public library, restaurant, pizza shop, bakery, clothing store, gift shop, florist, town council building, community center (with pool), movie theater, condo association building, apartment (since managing can be a full time job) etc.
Since I had twenty-one students, I had twenty-one building cards. A few were duplicates: restaurant, gas station, supermarket.
I also had twenty-one residential cards that identified different types of homes: house, duplex, condo, apartment
My students used graph paper to either build 3 dimensional models of their homes or their businesses.
Scale size was important, so prior to beginning construction, I consulted with each student regarding the maximum size for any wall.
For those of you who don't want to do this, you can actually purchase and download "z" scale (1:220) model houses on-line. The neat thing about doing this is that the buildings would be pretty. With care you could use them for several years. The scale size would also be consistent from one building to another.
Here is a source for purchasing model paper homes.
The drawback to using downloadable buildings is that the kids would be less vested in their buildings. Having students build their own buildings would also be a good exercise in understanding symmetry and congruency, and understanding area, length, width, and scale size.
Once the buildings were made, I "created" a model town. Green butcher paper covered a huge sheet of ply board that had been laid on a rectangular table in the back of the classroom. Roads were made to scale using black construction paper. I also added parking lots and driveways as needed.
Each street was named. I used my computer to print out street names. After cutting out the names, I used glue sticks to identify each street.
I also identified each home or business i.e. "Tami's Supermarket, George's post office, Emily's house."
The model town then became a teaching tool.
How did I use it?
1) Students learned how to give directions. For example, after placing a model car at Sam's house, Lucy was asked to give Sam written directions for driving from his house to her flower shop.
Directions of turn left and then turn right were not acceptable as I would model using the car. While "driving" down the road, I would wonder aloud ... "which left? Left on Smith Avenue or left on Daisy Street?"
Students learned to use landmarks or street names. "Turn left out of your driveway and turn right at the school. Turn left on Brown street. My shop is the third building on the right."
2) The model community was very useful as a creative writing focus in language arts. Students designed advertisements for their businesses.
They wrote letters to each other using "addresses" from the model town i.e. Sarah Smith, 101 Blair Street, Anywhere, Texas 78429. The student postmaster collected and delivered these letters.
Students wrote persuasive paragraphs. For example, when told that a waste disposal company wanted to purchase a plot of land for dumping trash (6 inches square on the model community), students wrote a paragraph explaining why this was or was not a good idea. Was construction of the waste disposal company a good idea or not?
Surprisingly enough, those students who would have "lived" next to the dump site always protested the idea. They typically wrote about the smell and the unpleasant sight of mounds of garbage. Some of the more creative students also wrote about the constant noise of garbage trucks driving to and fro from the site. One student even wrote about his plummeting property value. (He was either very bright or he had a talk with mom and dad while doing his homework).
3) Social Studies: As a culminating activity, I announced that the Federal Government wanted to build a highway through the town. The highway would be 2 1/2 times the width of a current street. Students were organized into groups and told to design a highway that would have the least negative impact on the community. I gave them scaled maps and strips of black construction paper (also scaled to size) to help with their planning.
This was essentially a values clarification exercise. What businesses and services does a community need?
Again - I typically found that students were vested in their homes and businesses. It was alright to bulldoze a neighbor's home or business, but not theirs.
Each group gave a presentation about their plan. Each group also wrote a persuasive paragraph.
Students then voted on the plans via secret ballot ...
These were only some of the ideas that I used when teaching this unit. It was lots of fun and the model community always caught the eyes of visiting parents.
Last edited by Chef Dave; 12-01-2007 at 06:12 PM.
P.S. Since different model buildings from different on-line sources are bound to be built to different scale sizes, I would recommend using a photocopier to reduce all buildings to the same size.
Unless you have a huge amount of room for your model town, I also recommend making small scale buildings. The Ben and Jerry buildings were neat but if it were up to me, I'd shrink them by at least 50%.
I did this last year with Legos, though we never got as far as actually putting them all together to make the town. They did design homes on graph paper and create buisnesses and sold items, and we discussed what kind of government to have and elected a mayor, and other officers of the town. It was fun, but not as well planned out as this. Since I loop, and my 2/3 grade is now a 3/4 grade, perhaps this would be a great next step! Thanks so much!
Thanks for mentioning this. I had forgotten all about our Mayor and town council. The political campaign and election was a hoot ... especially in my last 3rd grade class.
Originally Posted by RibbityRibbit
A parent of one of my students had asked about lessons associated with the model town. I gave her quick run down and she passed this information on to her daughter. The daughter picked up on the garbage dump as a campaign platform and lobbied her way into the mayoral office by painting bleak pictures of what the town would like like if a garbage dump was brought in.
Her imagination and platform gave her a significant edge over the, "Well, I'd just like to be mayor because I think I would make a good mayor" speech.
She even came to school with a few posters. She distributed the posters among her supporters and they wave the posters and chanted, "VOTE FOR ABBY! VOTE FOR ABBY!"
It was a hoot!