Give Me Shelter

By Vincent Goeddeke, August 28, 2008

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Three to six thirty- to forty-five minute class periods


  The students will examine what shelter is and why people need shelter. Using their prior knowledge about shelter and using books, internet resources, and other examples, students will investigate what shelter means and why it is important in its function.  The students will then design a miniature model of a shelter using found materials that are natural, reused, or recycled.  The students will then compare each other’s models and reflect on their form and function as well as how they might hold up to different types of weather and other outside variables.

National Standards


Standard 1.  Level I.  Understands atmospheric processes and the water cycle

1.   Knows that short-term weather conditions (e.g., temperature, rain, snow) can change daily, and weather patterns change over the seasons

Standard 12.  Level I.  Understands the nature of scientific inquiry

1. Knows that learning can come from careful observations and simple experiments

Standard 13.  Level I.  Understands the scientific enterprise

1.  Knows that in science it is helpful to work with a team and share findings with others

Behavioral studies

Standard 2.  Level I.  Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function

3. Understands that different groups, societies, and cultures have some similar wants and needs

Thinking and Reasoning


Standard 5.  Level I. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques


1. Identifies simple problems and possible solutions (e.g., ways to make something work better)


The students will begin to understand how the choice of certain materials and designs used to build a shelter are important elements to examine and consider when thinking about the place and climate of where a shelter/house is built.




  • Houses and Homes by Ann Morris
  • Houses by Gllimard Juenesse and Claude Delafosse
  • Imagine a House by Angela Gustafson
  • Design for the other 90%- shelter section
  • LCD projector and screen to display the website




  • A family letter attached to a large paper lunch bag requesting: recycled materials, reused materials, and natural materials.


  • clay
  • model magic
  • twine/string/wire
  • craft sticks
  • scissors
  • tacky glue
  • various types of tape


  • Shelter - teacher and students will co-construct a meaning for this based on the students’ prior knowledge and exposure to books and computer resources.



1. The teacher will pose the question, "What is Shelter" to the students at the beginning of the lesson.

2. The teacher will record the students’ responses on chart paper/sentence strips.

3. Together the class can sort through the ideas and group similar ideas.  By the end of the lesson a working definition of shelter should be created.

4. Tell the students that in a week they will each create a miniature shelter in class using any materials they wish that must be able to withstand one of four weather conditions (wind, rain, snow, or sun).  They can use reused, recycled, and natural materials or anything else that they gather from home or find in the school.

5. Send home a note explaining the project to families and how together with their child they should scrounge around their house and search for materials that could be used in the student’s designs.  

6. During the week, while students are collecting materials at home, read the three books mentioned above during your read-aloud times and also explore any relevant examples on the internet from the Design for the Other 90% page. 

Two design and creation lessons:

1. The next week, after the students have brought back their materials, the students will use them and "Build to Think" as they create their individual shelter models.   The classroom materials and collected materials will be available for all the students to use during these work times.

2. Each student will pick his or her top two weather conditions that he/she wants to design a shelter to withstand.  The choices are wind, rain, snow, and sun.  Each student will be assigned one of their top two choices, with the idea that each weather condition will have more than two student designers. 

A place in the classroom will have to be available to save the works in progress.

Testing the Shelters



1. Group One-Wind
The students could test their design against wind outside, or inside by using a fan.  Ask the students which elements of design held up against wind in their group.  Record their ideas on sentence strips.



2. Group Two-Rain
The students could test their design outside against water by using a sprinkler or watering can.   Ask the students what design elements held up against water in their group.  Record their ideas on sentence strips.


3. Group Three-Snow
The students could test their design outside against snow by using real snow, if weather permits or shaved ice.  Ask the students what design elements held up against snow in their small group's designs.  Record their ideas on sentence strips.

4. Group Four-Sun
The students could test their design outside against sun by using a sunny spot or inside with a lamp.  Ask the students if the designs offered adequate protection and shade from the sun.  Record their ideas on sentence strips.

5. Gather together as a class and discuss what the students observed.  First share the students’ ideas through discussion or reading through the sentence strips.  Show the students examples of the shelters in the classroom books or take a walk to a nearby neighborhood to look at design elements of the shelters/ houses that protect against these weather conditions.  

Refer to the Extension/ enrichment activities below to continue this exploration.




  • Anecdotal records and photos throughout the lessons and work times to record the students’ ideas and understanding.
  • Looking at the structure that each student builds to assess how he or she is making connections between form and function.
  • Recording anecdotally how the students evaluate their own and classmates' shelters.



Enrichment Extension Activities

  • The models that were created could be tested outside over time to see how they function.  The students could also modify their design after the first testing and then retest the structures.
  • Elements of each of the models could also be synthesized to create one life-size structure using natural, reused, and recycled materials.  The shelter could be constructed on the school grounds.  The students would have multiple opportunities to visit  the shelter after it is built in the months following to examine its design and study how it holds up to weather changes and other environmental variables.



Teacher Reflection

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