a Scale Model City
Sim City 2000 is a
wonderful tool for creating a realistic simulation
of how a city grows, but it is a world that only
exists on the computer screen. At the Erving
Elementary School, we believe that our students
also need to create real artifacts in the three
dimensional world they live in. The creative use of
our computers and software like Apple Works can
help with the job.
Real skyscrapers are
fascinating components of modern cities and the
students are very interested in their construction.
After a period of study, we have each student
design and build their own scale model of a
skyscraper. Before they are allowed to construct a
building, they must obtain a building permit.
Permits are issued to students who have submitted a
number of preliminary drawings of skyscrapers they
have studied, a final building design and list of
specifications for the structure they are about to
The scale that we
like to use is one inch = 10 feet. Models built to
this scale are quite large, but so are real
skyscrapers! An extra benefit when you use this
scale is the fact that matchbox cars can be used
around the buildings to add extra realism and
atmosphere. All models are built to the same scale
so that they can be combined into a scale model of
The models are
constructed using thin pieces of wood, cardboard,
paper and glue. It takes several days and large
quantities of building materials to construct
skyscrapers this size! Do not attempt to
make these buildings unless:
- You are willing
to devote lots of class time to the project.
- You have access
to many large pieces of cardboard.
- You are handy
with basic cutting tools, staplers and glue
- You can tolerate
a messy classroom for days on end.
- You have lots of
Are you ready for
If you do not think
you will be able to construct the large scale
models, you may want to try the same project using
a different scale. For instance, using a scale of 1
centimeter = 10 feet will dramatically shrink the
overall size of the models. You could also limit
the height of the buildings to under 30 stories. We
like to tell our kids that they can't make a
building taller than they are!
The skin of each
model skyscraper is created in the draw module of
Apple Works. Using Apple Works, the students are
able to experiment with an unlimited number of
possible designs and gray scale combinations.
Other Sample Skins
This is a great
activity for the students to learn the methodology
and benefits of basic computer skills like cutting,
pasting, copying, and grouping objects. The
computer takes over the thankless job of creating
hundreds of windows or thousands of marble blocks.
Once the skin of the skyscraper has been finalized,
enough photocopies of the skin are made to cover
the entire building. Students need to cut out each
The precise outlines
drawn on large pieces of cardboard and the 8 by 11
inch skin panels are glued to the cardboard.
Once the glue dries,
the outline of the wall sections are cut out and
the building is assembled.
We use long square
rods of wood in the inside corners of the models
held together with hot glue and staples. A basic
roof is done in cardboard with a black construction
paper top, but swimming pools and garden roofs are
not uncommon. The entire model is glued to a
cardboard base. A few final touches are added and
the building is complete!
The final products
are impressive structures and the students are
quite proud of their work. There is a strong sense
of accomplishment that comes from producing a
beautiful scale model of a building that you have
designed, especially when the model is almost as
tall as you are! Our fifth and sixth graders spend
many hours creating stories and writing newspaper
articles about the imaginary residents of their
buildings. They also write "state
of the city" speeches
as the mayor of their metropolis. The entire
experience helps to bring life to our study of