Designing an Early Civilization

By Monica Fontova, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

7 Days - 1 hour sessions each


Students will design and create a model of an ancient civilization using background knowledge from studying about the earliest civilizations from the continent of Asia. Students will research the necessary things that a group of people require in order to be considered a civilization; such as language, a city center, commerce and jobs. This experience will help students understand that humans have been designing since the beginning of time, even without the technological advancements we have today. Design is an embedded natural instinct. Humans are able to create out of necessity.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts – Strand - Verbal and nonverbal communication – LEVEL II (Grade 3-5) Benchmark 5 - Uses strategies to convey a clear main point when speaking (e.g., expresses ideas in a logical manner, uses specific vocabulary to establish tone and present information)   Common Core Mathematics – TOPIC: Measurement and Data - Strand – Measure and estimate lengths in standard units - (Grade 2) Benchmark - Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.   World History – Standard 3- Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley LEVEL II (5th grade) Understands the characteristics of writing forms in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley and how written records shaped political, legal, religious, and cultural life   Visual Arts – Standard 4 – LEVEL II (Grade K-4) Benchmark 3 – Know how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other


Students will:
  • understand that there are basic human needs in order for humans to survive and there needs to be a collaboration and partnership between humans
  • understand the importance of certain characteristics of civilization
  • understand the hard work that goes into designing a civilization
  • investigate architecture of the early civilizations and gain an understanding of why they were designed that way
  • construct a prototype of historical civilization based on research and investigation



  • cardboard
  • glue
  • scissors
  • clay and carving implements
  • acrylic paint and brushes
  • multi-colored paper
  • Styrofoam
  • ipads or laptops


Civilization – 1. a relatively high level of cultural and technological development; the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained. 2. The process of becoming civilized Architecture – the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones Government – authoritative direction or control Culture – the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday existence


Lesson 1 – 30 minutes (Discussion) Show students visual images from the Core Knowledge Early Asian Civilization flip book. Read lesson 1 aloud to the class and have a classroom discussion about the earliest civilization of Mesopotamia and what it needed to actually be called a civilization. Use guided questions from Core Knowledge to get the discussion going. Some aspects of a civilization to discuss would be that they needed a form of communication, a food source such as agriculture or livestock, community jobs, laws, etc.   Lesson 2 – 45 minutes (Brainstorming) Today will be dedicated to brainstorming ideas about what we need in order to build our new classroom civilization. Explain to students that they will be creating their own civilization. Each group will be responsible for designing one aspect of our civilization. Each group will be given an ipad to look up information about early civilizations. They will collaborate in a small group setting of about 3-4 students per group. Group 1 – form of writing/spoken language Group 2 – community jobs Group 3 – food source – agriculture – live stock Group 4 – Architecture of city center Group 5 – laws/government Group 6 – Art/culture Touch up on what we learned yesterday through the Core Knowledge flip book. Before the students start designing, as a whole class it is important to discuss certain characteristics of our environment before we can begin designing for it. For example:
  • In what kind of climate does our civilization live?
  • What kind of natural resources are available?
  • What do the civilians eat? Do they hunt, gather, or farm?
  • Are they peaceful or war-like?
  • What kinds of ceremonies or forms of artistic expression are important?
  The class can now split into their groups. Each group has 15 minutes to verbally discuss and brainstorm ideas of how they are going to create their contribution to the class civilization.   Lesson 3 – 45 minutes (Sketching) Today students will get into their small groups and begin sketching their prototypes. They verbally discussed and brainstormed yesterday, now they will put it onto paper. Each student can draw an individual idea onto paper, and then they will discuss and collaborate in order to form one prototype based on everyone’s individual ideas. There will only be one student who will be drawing the final prototype (student chosen by the teacher).   Lesson 4 – 45 minutes (Presenting Prototypes and Editing) Today students present their prototype to the teacher and the whole class. Each group will get in front of the room and explain their idea to the class. This is helpful in the design process because while presenting, it allows students to see where adjustments need to be made and what will work or not work. After everyone has presented to the class, each group will meet with the teacher to help with editing and tweaking the prototype.   Lesson 5 – 45 minutes (Construction) Today students will get into their groups and use given supplies to actually begin construction of their prototypes. Each group can choose what supplies they want to use, based on their options. For example, the group responsible for language may start using sumi ink to create characters similar to the symbols of hieroglyphics, or they may choose to create tablets out of clay or plaster of paris and carve the symbols out that way. The group responsible for the architecture can begin using cardboard and styrofoam to construct the city center and the surrounding wall. The students will be given 45 minutes today. Tomorrow will also be dedicated to construction.   Lesson 6 – 60 minutes (Construction) Today students will continue construction of their contribution to the civilization. They will have 1 hour to complete and finalize their project.   Lesson 7 – 60 minutes (Presentation) Today students will present their designs to the class. They will be asked to talk about the materials used, why they used that particular material and what made them come to decision to create this design. After each presentation we will discuss as a class if we feel it was a good addition to our civilization. We will also come up with a name for our civilization. We will display our class civilization in a conspicuous location in the school for everyone to see.


Assess students’ ability to collaborate and brainstorm by doing informal assessment and walk-through during the brainstorm process. Collect brainstorm papers and sketches from earlier lessons. Formal Assessment of Constructed Prototypes
  • Were students’ prototypes a reasonable contribution to our civilization?
  • Could a civilization function properly with the group’s prototype?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Have students do a comparison of early civilizations and modern civilizations. Discuss and research how technological advances have changed the way humans design and create solutions to community problems.

Related Files

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.