The Model Town Project

The 1st grade’s urban planning unit—which explores the relationship between people and their environment—begins with students investigating their local neighborhoods and discussing how neighborhoods are organized to meet people's needs and wants. Students learn about communities and habitats and come to understand the distinction between living and built environments.
    • Distinctions

Town Planning

The highlight of the planning process is the Town Meeting. Elements of the city are divided into five categories—industrial, commercial, institutional, residential, and public green space. These categories help 1st graders think about what buildings should go where. Using a SMART Board that displays a grid of their city, students "drag" the names of buildings to areas on the grid and share the reasoning behind the placements they propose. Each student has a voice in the process.
During last year’s town meeting, 1st graders agreed that the recycling center and the power plant should be on the outskirts of town since both give off bad, unhealthy odors. On the other hand, they concluded that the pet shop and restaurants should be nestled in between residential areas, because pet owners live in houses and need to get food easily (and frequently) for themselves, as well as their pets. When it looked like the airport was going to have to be placed on the edge of town next to the hotel, students decided to create a buffer of trees and green space between the two and create a no-fly zone.
    • 1st grade,Distinctions,seamless integration,town


Once the town plan is established, 1st graders each choose a building to construct and then create blueprints complete with architectural details.

Working from their drawings, students transform humble shoeboxes into clearly recognizable structures by adding windows, working doors, brick and other textural treatments, signage, and landscaping.
    • 1st grade,Distinctions,seamless integration,town

Grand Opening

After the finishing touches are complete, the buildings are placed on the town's gigantic grid in the lobby of the main building. During Primary School Gathering, 1st grade students hand over the keys to the city to Director of Primary School and the Head of School and reveal the name of the model town. Each year, it is a proud moment!
Interdisciplinary projects like this one help students connect what they are learning across disciplines and apply their knowledge to real-world problems.
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.