Plan a Town

By Todd Elliott

University of Phoenix

For educational use only.

For 8th grade students in Social Studies class. The lesson objective: In groups of four, the students will plan a livable town in a collaborative project-based learning activity.

While you may use any website via your favorite search engine, you can start your exploration with this website: Future City Search terms include ‘city planning activity students’ for use in search engines. There is a glossary in the Future City website.

The teacher will assign you to a group of four in the classroom. Within your group, you need to choose a role;

  • Mapper
  • Brainstormer
  • Enforcer
  • Decider

Activity #1: The first activity is undertaken by the Mapper. This student will use graph paper, and do a rough outline of the waterways, lakes, roads… There must be one lake or bay that occupies 1/4 of the town. There must be at least two roads that lead in/out of the town. You may use color in doing so. Give the town a fictional name. The teacher will show an example topography map in the classroom on the interactive whiteboard.

The team may advise the Mapper on laying out the roads, waterways, lake, grassy terrain, etc. There will be a topography map check at the next class by the teacher. The teacher will review the maps, to make sure they meet the criteria. The teacher will not offer revisions to the maps. The Mapper may take a photo and upload it to Piktochart.

Critical Thinking Question #1: What map features draw people to create towns? (Hint: This is why the instructor will not offer revisions to maps; Once they’re drawn, they might as well as be real and will be presented to the team as is.)

Activity #2: This activity involves brainstorming of town elements. How many houses? Apartment buildings? Parks? Museums? Fire and Police? Garbage? Mall? Stores? Schools? The team brainstorms the elements that will make up the town, and the Brainstormer writes them down in a list format. The Brainstormer assigns a number indicating importance, i.e., on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very important, next to the town elements.

The teacher will check the brainstorming lists at the next class. The teacher will check to ensure that each town elements have been indexed by importance.

Critical Thinking Question #2: Which common town features are essential in a town? Explain why. (Hint: By ranking town elements by importance, students should be able to determine which town features are truly essential.)

Activity #3: This activity will involve discussion of rules and planning of the town. The Enforcer will collaborate with students on his/her team in laying down some initial rules and how to place town elements on the map. The Enforcer needs to lay down at least four zoning rules for the team to follow in placing elements on the map. Here’s some example rules; Where should the utilities be located? Where should the stores be located? How to set an area as a designated park? How will the homes be grouped together?

The teacher will check the zoning lists at the next class. The teacher will check to ensure that there are zoning rules in place that will help guide placement of town elements.

Critical Thinking Question #3: How are certain town features arranged in a town to ensure a high quality of life for its residents? (Hint: Would you live right next to a garbage disposal facility?)

Activity #4: This activity will enable the group to actually place town elements on the map. While not required, it is advisable to upload a photo of the map to Piktochart. This online application has icons (stores, buildings, homes, schools, etc.) that the team can copy+paste directly onto the map, move them around, etc. It’s a lot harder to draw such features on the map, only to erase them and move it elsewhere.

The Decider now has the map, the town element list indexed by importance, and zoning rules to follow. He/she may place such elements onto the map. The team will help him/her in determining optimal placement of such town features onto the map.

The teacher will check the map at the next class. The teacher will make sure that there are enough town elements present on the map, and that there is a sufficient (more than four) variety of town elements on the map.

Critical Thinking Question #4: Why are these town elements included on the map, and how they work together in enabling a sustainable way of life for its residents? What about its attractiveness? (Hint: How the proximity of businesses economically helps people living in homes, and vice versa? How does the location of the fire department help the city? How can a park help attract residents?)

Activity #5: The last activity is the map presentation activity. The team members explains their roles. The Mapper shows the original map, and explains its basic topography. The Brainstormer lists important town elements. The Enforcer explains the zoning rules, and how it helps quality of life for its residents. The Decider explains how the town is laid out. He/she explains how the town is a sustainable and attractive place to live.

Critical Thinking Question #5: What makes for a livable town that has a high quality of life? (Hint: Would you live in this town?)

By engaging in this Project-Based Learning activity, it is hoped that the students will learn about the features that are already present in the communities they live in, and to appreciate such features. Countless people live and work in the communities they live in, and help make it sustainable and livable for the students.


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