First-grade students at Northpoint Elementary School in Blaine constructed police stations, a movie theater, a Target store and more.
Tasked with teaching a unit on growing and changing communities, several first-grade teachers decided to build model communities with their classes this fall.
Annually, kindergartners learn about community helpers, something much more concrete than a community’s evolution, said Samantha Howard, one of the teachers who came up with the idea. “It’s a tough topic for them to grasp,” she said.
Classes led by Howard, Darcy Brodt and Gina Ostrowski have completed their communities, while Judie Offerdahl and Kevin Koch’s classes will wrap up shortly.
The communities started very basic, with trees, houses and roads. Then, teachers asked students to work with their parents to create community buildings. Police stations, fire houses and schools were among the necessary buildings; “wants” were establishments like restaurants and movie theaters, Howard said.
Antonio Castillo signed up to build a police station, “which is no surprise since he wants to be a policeman,” according to his mother, Jen Castillo.
A student that doesn’t particularly love school, Antonio really embraced the project, Castillo said. “Most of the time we have to fight with him to do homework, but he was really excited about this,” she said. Students primarily used recycled materials to build their structures, Howard said.
The Castillos recently renovated their basement, so “we just rummaged through all our leftovers,” Jen Castillo said.
She and Antonio spent a Saturday morning building the police station.
“The neatest thing was that their parents were involved,” Howard said of the project.
Students had a week to build their structures, and very few brought their assignments in early, putting in a great amount of thought and effort, according to Howard.
When they finally did bring in their buildings, they were allowed to place them in the community after some engineering education, Howard said.
For example, two police stations shouldn’t be placed side-by-side and a movie theater typically doesn’t sit in the middle of a residential development – all part of the lesson.
Eight tables were required to support Howard and Brodt’s joint model community.
The teachers hope it will become an annual project.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org