In the spring, grade 2 students construct a model of a metropolitan community. Throughout the year, girls practice cooperative learning skills, collaboration, and the fine art of compromise. They use these skills, along with their creativity and problem-solving to tackle the task of creating a city that reflects the real-life elements of a community: downtown, neighborhood, suburbs, and industrial area.
Throughout specific phases of the project, Ellis girls take on a variety of roles including architect, builder, city planner, and environmentalist. Acting as an architect, each girl creates a blueprint to guide her in constructing a single-family home for the city. The girls are then able to see how their individual structures come together to create a neighborhood.
As a next step, students brainstorm the “wants and needs” of a community, sharing their opinions and listening to those of their classmates. From there, they start to work in collaborative partnerships to create a structure for the city. This requires a different set of skills, specifically the give-and-take of compromise to reach a shared vision. With a plan in place, the partnerships use recycled materials to bring their plan to life, being mindful of the scale of their structure. As they encounter design issues, they use their cooperative skills to rethink and modify their original plan.
As city planners, the girls consider the space, environmental impact, and safety needs of a city. In discussions, they make decisions that they hope will affect their city in a positive way: Where can we protect/create green spaces? Where can we include public art for everyone to enjoy? What sustainable/green energy sources can we include? The girls puzzle the best placement of an airport taking into consideration space requirements, noise, and accessibility. Authentic suggestions pop up as the city starts to take shape. Each year, without fail, the model city starts to take on the personality and passions of the students creating it; each group of second graders crafts a community that is uniquely theirs.