Architecture Form Challenge (4th + 5th Grade)

Lesson Plan by Amanda E. Gross
National Visual Art Standards: 1, 2, 3, & 5
Cognitive, affective, & psychomotor skills
2 Sessions

Unit Title: Forms
Unit Goal: Some artists employ design strategies to make forms functional.
Lesson Title: Architecture Form Challenge
Lesson Goals: Some artists repurpose & reuse materials to build new structures.

Lesson Objectives: As a result of instruction, students will be able to:

  1. Create a small house or other architectural form from recycled cardboard cylinders & string.
  2. Recognize that some architects & artists create building structures using recycled materials.
  3. Experiment with materials to create different forms.
  4. Employ design strategies to ensure that their structures are balanced & able to stand.
  5. Work as a contributing & productive member of a small group.
  6. Critique the structures of self & others.

Vocabulary Words: architecture, recycled material, repurpose, reuse, form.

Visual References: 

Left to right: Photograph from an earlier project run (photo credit: Amanda E. Gross), Jasmine Zimmerman’s Plastic Bottle House, Piet Hein Eek’s tree trunk garden house, Tomislav Radovanovic’s bottle house, Minnie Evans’ Bottle Chapel designed by Virginia Wright-Frierson, & Pavilion of Temporary Happiness in Brussels, Belgium.

Instructional Support Materials: Visual resources (listed above & in PowerPoint), projector, laptop, dongle or other connector cord, dry-erase board & markers, tape & paint to color-code cardboard cylinders.

Supplies: 100 6-inch cardboard cylinders (color-coded, 20 per small group), 20 4-foot twine strings (4 per group, to start), 5 sheets of 12″x18″ paper for structure boundaries.

Assessment Strategies: Individual & group discussions, observation of work periods, critique, written reflection.

Evaluation criteria / evidence of success: 

  • Student uses cylinders & string provided to create architectural forms with some features that are typical of houses or other buildings.
  • In discussion, student recognizes that architects & artists use recycled materials in their work.
  • Student show evidence of creating several different forms with the same materials, over time.
  • Student’s structures can stand by themselves.
  • Student suggest has insightful comments during group discussions, & is seen purposefully handling materials.
  • Student is respectful toward other group members.

Class Progression:

  1. Motivation: Discuss: What is form? What is architecture? What is a recycled material, & what are some examples?
  2. Show visual resources & discuss how some artists/architects repurpose materials. Has anyone here repurposed a material before?
  3. Students are divided into groups of 2-4, & each group receives a 12″x18″ sheet to represent structure boundaries.
  4. Allow students a few minutes to play & experiment with the materials, & adjust to their groups.
  5. Class discussion: What kinds of forms could we make with these cardboard cylinders? Choose a theme, either transportation or architectural forms (i.e. jet skis, rafts, rocket, etc.); have students give examples of these, and write them on the dry-erase board.
  6. Explore: Students work in small groups to build forms & experiment. Every few minutes (5-15), challenge groups to create a new form.
  7. Reflection: Class critique: Students look at their own & peers’ structures, & discuss.
  8. Written assessment: Students answer What did you learn? What’s one thing you liked about this project, & what’s one thing you found challenging?

Modifications:  Provide mediation for groups who don’t get along, and switch students if necessary. Offer suggestions to groups that are struggling with coming up with new forms. Ask students to think of ways they can improve their forms, if they finish quickly. Cylinders are color-coded to avoid arguments of which group cylinders belong to, & to make counting materials easier when it’s time to clean up.


2 thoughts on “Architecture Form Challenge (4th + 5th Grade)

  1. Thank you for this wonderful project! I will be trying it with my 5th grade students in their Architectural design Class (with your permission of course!). From the looks of things it’s not only a great way to show form but also an exercise in recycling.

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