Courtyard Design

By Anita Yu, November 18, 2010

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

180 minutes for classroom activities


Students will design and construct a proportionally accurate model of their dream playground/courtyard design.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts Strand Speaking and Listening Grades 6-8 SL.6-8.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. Common Core Mathematics 6-8 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.  


Standard 4. Level III. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement

6. Selects and uses appropriate units and tools, depending on degree of accuracy required, to find measurements for real-world problems

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

English Language Arts Standards: Science & Technical Subjects 

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.


Students will be able to:
  • measure outdoor space to collect data that will then be converted into smaller measurements for their model designs


The students and staff who use the space (a survey of these people will be taken)


  • proportion: an equation showing that two ratios are equal
  • scale drawing: a drawing that has the same shape but not the same size as the object it represents; the parts of an object in a scale drawing are proportional to the corresponding parts of the actual drawing


Step 1:

1. Students start outdoors in small groups and measure the perimeter of a given space that is used as a playground/courtyard.  (Note: Students can even try to estimate the height of bordering walls/structures if they choose to incorporate murals into their designs, etc.)

2. Students record data and go back to the classroom to determine what scale they want to convert their measurement into for their model design.

3. Students interview fellow students and staff who use the space. Examples of questions to ask are: Who uses the space? How many people use it at one time?  What age groups use it?  What is the purpose of this space?

4. Students brainstorm for ideas they want to put in the playground/courtyard.

5. Students determine the measurement of their models using their chosen scale.

6. Students make models of their designs using construction paper, drawings, etc.



Students are assessed on the final project and how proportionally accurate the model designs are given the measurement of the outdoor playground/courtyard.

Enrichment Extension Activities

This project can be differentiated by giving groups a choice whether to use part of the playground/courtyard or the entire area, or by having students demonstrate their expertise by incorporating athletic areas if they like sports, designing murals if they like art, talking about reusable materials if they are into environmentalism, etc. The project can be extended by making PowerPoint presentations, surveying the student body for ideas and graphing the data, and can even be adapted to other community spaces.
  1. I love the idea of having students determine their own scale for their models. This, not only pushes students to think about realistic and useful scales, it opens up another layer of discussion to have with student and push their problem solving skills. It also pushed Standards for Mathematical Practices #3 – Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others – by allowing students to get involved with exchanging ideas with their classmates and justifying their reasoning.

  2. I’m currently teaching proportionality and I’m glad to have read your lesson plan just now for some inspiration on the real-world applications 🙂

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