My School

By Dana Holden, December 15, 2016

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

90 minutes with possibilities to extend


This lesson is inspired by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s By The People: Designing a Better America, in particular the High Speed Rail Map and Board Game. This lesson is designed to see where students think are safe within your school and where students might think are either unsafe or uncomfortable for them to go into. This should give you an indication of where students like spending time. You can then talk about why they feel that way and how you might work as a community to widen the perceived level of safety of the school. You could revisit this activity at different times in the year to gauge any change in the students’ perceptions and familiarity with the school. Additionally, you can create a board game for your class based on the school, incorporating geometry and other math equations including the shortest paths and simplest paths to finding different areas of the school.

National Standards

READING STANDARDS FOR INFORMATIONAL TEXTS Key ideas and details 1,2 K-2 and 3 K-1 Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 7 K-2 WRITING STANDARDS Text Types and Purposes 2 K-2 Research to Build and Present Knowledge 8 K-2 SPEAKNG AND LISTENING Comprehension and Collaboration 1,3 K-2 Presentation and Knowledge of Ideas 4,5,6 K-2 LANGUAGE STANDARDS Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 6 K-2 GEOMETRY Identify and Describe Shapes CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K-2 G.A.1 Analyze, Compare, Create and Compose Shapes CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.G.B.5 CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.G.A.2 CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.G.A.1


Students will be able to: • identify safe areas of the school; • come up with ways to feel more comfortable through identifying “unsafe” spaces; • create an inclusive school environment.


• Computer • Projector • Digital map/projection of your school • By The People: Designing a Better America exhibition High Speed Rail map and board game BACKGROUND: Students, particularly new and beginning students, can feel lost and unsure about their new school environment. It isn’t always clear where to go, what to do and all the new rules that they just aren’t used to. This lesson is designed to get students thinking about their school environment and ways to make it feel safe and welcoming. This lesson could then be used as a springboard to opening the conversation up about the wider community and the world around them. This is a great starter lesson that could move in different directions based on your units of study. Math – shapes and size of buildings in the school. Arts – building design and creation. Language Arts – signs and symbols. The opportunities to build in Common Core are endless and up to you!


• Color pencils • Butchers paper for brainstorming • You will need to print a map of your school • Poster paper • Scissors • Glue • Other materials you want to use with your students to create posters


• Safe space • Familiar • Environment • Comfortable • Design


1 Ask the students where they feel safe in the school – create a list on the board. Talk about why they feel safe there and how safe feels. Does it feel good? Warm? Comfortable? Continue with conversation that you feel is relevant and necessary for your students so they understand what you are trying to achieve this lesson. 2 Give each student a map of the school and with colored pencils they will shade the areas where they feel safe, unsafe and areas they are unsure of how they feel. • Green = safe • Orange = unsure • Red = unsafe 3 Students then color in the spaces. Teacher circulates, answers questions the students have and identifies any similarities the students might have in their work. 4 On the board, list the agreed to safe spaces within your school. Discuss why these spaces are considered safe and what makes them feel that way. Talk about how “safe” is a feeling and what causes that feeling at school (friends, places that they know – their classroom, etc). 5 List the areas where students feel unsure and why that is. Do they spend much time there? Do they not know where it is? Is that where the “big kids” hang out? Is it the cafeteria which can be busy and noisy? 6 What is design? Ask students what they think of when they think of “design” (drawing/painting/etc). Talk to them about design being something that can be used to solve problems. Let them know that they will now be creating posters that can be put up in the school to make it feel welcoming and friendly. Talk about places these posters might go to help students feel safe and welcome. 7 Design Challenge planning time: “You are in a poster design team and get to create a new poster to go up somewhere in your school to help the school be friendly, welcoming and helpful. In your group, choose colors you want to work with and where you want your sign to go. When you are finished your team will tell the class why you chose your colors and where your posters will go and why.” 8 Students can work in groups of 3-4 and will need a piece of scrap paper, butchers paper, colored pencils/pens and rulers, as well as any other equipment you may choose to work with in your context. STEP 1: Students choose the main colors for their poster. STEP 2: Students choose where they want the poster to go. STEP 3: Students plan their poster on a spare piece of paper. STEP 4: Students start designing their final poster. 9 Students share their poster design in their groups and go through their color choices, where it would go in the school and why. 10 Put posters up in the school. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: • What does safe mean? • What does safe feel like? • Why do you feel better in some places than other places? • How could we make places/spaces you don’t know more comfortable? • How do students know where to go for lunch or how to get lunch during breaks? • What school rules are there that are new to you? How could these be made clear to new students so they know what to do?


• Students will be able to participate in class discussions. • Students will be able to work in small groups. • Students will be able to create posters to go up in the school. • Students will be able to talk about what they created.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Depending on your year level and abilities of your students you could present posters to a larger audience and then take their ideas further and create school groups or projects which work towards a strong school community. This lesson could also be extended by develop a board game for your school or town/city, or a general board game that the students can create and play.

Related Files

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.