- Practice three-dimensional thinking, observation skills, and geography skills
- Collaborate on a complex project
- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
- Posterboard, one sheet per small group
- Recycled cereal/product boxes of different sizes
- Construction paper in various colors, including red, gray, and brown
- Markers or colored pencils
- Optional: Computers with web access for student use
Note: You may want to have students bring in cardboard boxes for the project in advance of the building day.
Step 1: Begin by discussing how Rose created the panoramic model of New York City at the Queens Museum of Art. Why did she make it? How does it allow us to see a city or neighborhood differently? (Ben describes looking down at the model as feeling "like a bird flying above the sprawling expanse of New York City.")
Step 2: Challenge students to work in teams to create a model of the neighborhood. Each group of two or three students can focus on a block or two.
Step 3: Go out for a walk and encourage students to take pictures, make notes, and draw quick illustrations. What do they see? A billboard, a park, a mailbox?
Note: If time does not allow for a class walk, have students take notes on the way to and from school over a day or two. You may also want to use Google Maps to see 360-degree street views.
Step 4: When student teams are ready to start on their blocks, have them sketch their block on a sheet of posterboard. Explain that each group should draw their buildings to scale, and that this will require collaboration between groups.
Step 5: Have each team look through the collection of boxes to find or create the shapes for their buildings.
Step 6: Have students cover boxes in red (bricks), gray (cement), or brown (wood) construction paper and then draw windows and signs on the buildings.
Step 7: Have students draw the streets on the outside edge of the posterboard.
Step 8: When each group has finished their portion of the project, assemble the sheets of posterboard to create a magnificent panorama of the students' neighborhoods or town.
Step 9: Ask students what they learned from this project about how cities are constructed. Talk about how planning, history, and happenstance work together to create the places where we live.
Step 10: Display the completed model in your school.