I designed this PBL after a middle of the night idea. It took me just a few hours on a Saturday to sit down and get the bones of the project laid out. I like to use the Project Design Template from the Buck Institute for Education. I modified it a little to make it work better for me. This blog post will be the narrative version of the plan I wrote including my reflections. Some of what I planned, didn’t happen and some things we did, were not on the plan. I like to take the lead from my students during a project like this which changes the plan sometimes!
In this PBL, students will design a community that meets the wants and needs of the people who live there. Students will consider the producers and goods and services needed to meet the needs and wants of the consumers. Students will create a blueprint and build a model of their community.
How can you as a community planning committee ensure that the needs and wants of your citizens are met through the goods and services you will provide?
Goals and Standards
Common Core Reading
- RI1.3 Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
- RI1.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, table of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts of information in a text.
- RI1.9 Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).
North Carolina Social Studies Standards
- E.1 Understand basic economic concepts.
- E.1.1 Summarize the various ways in which people earn and use the money for goods and services.
- E.1.2 Identify examples of goods and services in the home, school, and community.
- E.1.3 Explain how supply and demand affect the choices families and communities make.
- G.1 Use geographic representations, terms, and technologies to process information from a spatial perspective.
- G.1.1 Use geographic tools to identify characteristics of various landforms and bodies of water.
- G.1.2 Give examples showing the location of places (home, classroom, school, and community).
- G.1.3 Understand the basic elements of geographic representations using maps (cardinal directions and map symbols).
21 Century Skills
- Critical Thinking/Problem Solving – Designing a community with spatial constraints that fits the needs of the people who live there
- Collaboration – Students will work on teams of 4-5 students to design their community. Each student will have a role.
For this project, I had students read 3 different books on communities and community helpers from Reading A-Z. We discussed the similarities and differences in the books and added our wonders to the wonder wall.
After reading and comparing the texts, I split students into groups of 4-5. I revealed the roles for this project:
- Commissioner- makes decisions on behalf of the community
- Architect- creates the plan and sees that plan is followed
- Engineer- Checks for structure safety
- Economic Development Specialists – Makes sure there is a balance of goods/services and producers/consumers
I knew these terms would be beyond their understanding, so I created a slide deck to explain each one in child friendly language.
Students then had conversations within their groups to select their roles. Groups with 5 students, decided which role they thought deserved 2 people. We have selected roles in my classroom before so students are familiar with the process. Basically, they go around the group and say which role they would like and why. If no one else selects that role, it’s theirs. If more than one student selects the same role (and they can’t both do it) they use one of our protocols to make a decision (rock paper scissors, bubble gum bubble gum, pick a number, group vote, etc.).
Their first collaborative task was to create a list of needs and wants of citizens in a community. Then using those lists, students made a second list of the goods and services that could provide each need and want. The commissioner needed to make sure they could meet all the needs of their citizens.
On chart paper, architects made a map to plan out their community. The engineer needed to make sure the roads were clear for the safety of their citizens. Then they labeled the stores on the map. The economic development specialist made sure that there were goods and services to support the citizens. The commissioner made sure that citizen needs were met before their wants. The planning process took us about 3 days.
The building process took us a while. Students used cardboard and construction paper to build their communities. They needed signs for each structure. The architect was to ensure the build followed the plan they drew on the map. The engineer needed to make ensure the buildings were sturdy and the roads were clear.
Students shared their projects with the other groups in the classroom and with parents who came in for a genius hour writing celebration.
Mini lessons and how I knew students needed them
Needs and Wants – Even though this is taught in kindergarten, we had conversations that broadened their understanding. First, whole-group we completed a needs and wants sort. Then discussed additional things the people need in their community like doctors, police officers, housing options, etc.
Goods and Services – We completed a sort of goods and services using a smartboard file I have. Then we talked about the businesses they have selected to put in their communities and whether they provided goods or services or both.
Bird’s Eye View – When I asked my students to draw a map of their community, they began drawing a skyline view of it. I had to stop their work right away and talk about drawing from a bird’s eye view. I used google maps to show our community and how the bird’s eye view is different from the street view.
Building Shapes – Students really struggled with cutting down cardboard or using construction paper to build their buildings. Fortunately, we were covering 3D shapes in math and I was able to show them how to construct cubes and rectangular prisms to construct their buildings and tie it to our geometry standards! When sharing their community, one student said, “we built it this way after Mrs. Diorio showed us how to build 3D shapes with paper.”
Community Helpers – Students did not initially include police stations, fire stations, doctor’s offices/hospitals, etc. in their plans. We talked about the different community helpers that citizens might need for their safety within the community.
Trash and Recycling – Right as we were finishing our build, it was Earth Day. This was the perfect opportunity to talk about how they would plan to keep their community free of pollution. Students added trash cans and recycling centers in their communities.
Mini lessons I had in my back pocket but didn’t need
Zoning – I totally skipped this entire part of the project I designed.
Naming a Business – Students chose to use the names of businesses they knew from in our community or they agreed quickly on other names.
Safety of structures – Engineers seemed to already know that the buildings in their communities shouldn’t wobble when touched and made sure they were secured to the ground.
I planned to focus more on taking anecdotal notes and using a rubric to help me grade students’ communities, but I got so involved in our building process, I completely forgot to carry around my clipboard! I will tell you that every student in my class understood the goals of the project and could explain them to others. I’ll do better next time!
Things I’ll do differently next time
Notes and Rubric – I plan to be more intentional with PBL in taking anecdotal notes and using a rubric to keep track of what and how my students are doing during the process.
Writing – This project would have been the perfect chance for students to write an all about book on communities. They also could have written opinion/persuasive pieces about the stores they wanted in their communities or to attract citizens to live in their community.
Zones – I initially designed this project to talk about how communities are zoned into housing areas and shopping areas. However, I never ended up doing anything with that. The next time I do this project, I will be sure to talk more about zoning.
History – We didn’t really touch on the change over time standard during this project. Next time, one student will have the role of town historian and will need to take pictures throughout the process so students can mark how their community has changed over the time they spent building it.
Self Reflections – I planned for students to fill out self-reflections during the process so they can see their own impact on the bigger project, but ran out of time every day to do this. Next time, I will have reflection days for students to think about what they are doing and how they are impacting the community.
I would love your feedback on this project. Please leave comments below!