We all need homes, and the study of homes allows us to meet a lot of standards in social studies. Here are ideas for various grade levels:
K-3: How Homes are Built
Homes of Our Own, a coloring book available as a free download from United-Bilt Homes, makes a good worktext for this age group. Here are ideas for using each page:
- The first page has a matching activity to consider where different animals live. The next page looks at trees, how they provide homes for animals, and how “some special trees become homes for families.” We like this section for thinking about where various animals live: the concept of habitat. The coloring picture on this page shows a variety of woodland creatures. Have students name and label them, and discuss where each one lives: in a burrow, in a nest, inside a tree, etc. This is the starting point for a discussion of raw materials to finished goods, as well.
- “For every tree that is harvested, five trees are planted in its place.” Remind students of any lessons on environmental responsibility you’ve done. Discuss the fact that trees breathe out oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide, just as we breathe out carbon dioxide and breathe in oxygen.
- This page shows trees being made into boards and paper products. This is the next step in the journey from raw materials to finished goods, and a great time to discuss recycling efforts made at your school and in homes in your community.
- A picture of some heavy machinery shows how a house is begun by building a hole for the foundation. Examine the school’s foundation. This is also a nice page for thinking about how machinery helps make work easier for us. Think about digging a hole big enough for your school’s foundation by hand. If your class is ready for the math, calculate how long it might take. If students are intrigued by this page, you might like to continue with more heavy equipment coloring pages from School to Work.
- The next page shows carpenters framing and roofing a house. The following pages are activity pages with words to complete. Pair this section with How a House Is Built by Gail Gibbons. Make a word wall with the job titles of the workers and the names of the equipment used.
- “Builders contribute many things to the community, like jobs, parks, lakes, and new trees.” Students may never have thought about parks and lakes being built, even if they realize that someone built their homes. Find parks on a map of your town and discuss what might be involved in building a park.
- “A house becomes a home when a family moves in.” We like this page for discussing the basic human wants and needs that homes and families supply. Ask your students what people need to live happily, and discuss where they get things like water, shelter, and food. Our homes also provide us with sanitation, while families provide love and care.
- The next page shows a number of different homes, from an igloo to an apartment building. Watch the slideshow of different kinds of modern homes below to add to the discussion of the different places where people live, or have lived.
- The final page encourages students to draw their own dream house.
Grades 4-8: How Homes are Designed
Greene & Greene for Kids is a wonderful book that looks at a broad range of home-related issues through the lens of a single architectural firm, Greene and Greene. Some of the issues touched on by the book:
- What 19th century people made themselves and what they bought, compared with modern people.
- How the Greene brothers prepared for their trade.
- A variety of architectural styles, including specific comparisons of roofs and windows. One pages 34 and 35, photographs of houses are shown with the roof triangles outlined in red for easy comparison. Use Microsoft Paint to do the same with photos of students’ homes. There are also lessons and project ideas for use with photos of houses.
- Lessons on symmetry, color theory, and photography.
- Lessons on floor plans and architectural drawings that support visual literacy goals. Compare the drawings in the book with modern floor plans. Have students use an easy program like AutoCAD Freestyle or Google SketchUp to create their own floor plans. Then put students in pairs to critique those designs and catch problems (forgot the bathroom, maybe?). If you use SketchUp, you can “fly” through the buildings in 3-D. Try out the SketchUp Log Cabin lesson first to get accustomed to the program.
- More ambitious hands-on activities such as making a miniature stained glass window, a wall, or a water garden.
More lesson plans related to homes and architecture:
- Design a House with Frank Lloyd Wright
- Ratios in Architecture
- Skylines Lesson Plans offers a number of connections for urban architecture.
- From Greece to Main Street looks at Greek revival architecture.
- a collection of architecture lesson plans from Middle Tennessee State University
9-12: Issues with Homes
In the real world, it isn’t always home sweet home. Help older students gain an understanding of some of the issues involved in housing with these lessons:
- Study tenement life at the turn of the 20th century with Understanding Tenement Life and A Lens into the Past from Artsedge.
- Read and discuss Anna Quindlen’s essay, “Homeless.” The link gives you the text of the essay and a number of discussion questions. In using this or any materials on homelessness, consider that some students in the class may be or have been homeless, or may consider themselves poor or facing financial insecurity. An “us” vs. “them” focus may be inappropriate for discussions of poverty and homelessness. You might want to invite a speaker from a local homeless shelter to discuss homelessness in your community.
- Bring a copy of Material World: A Global Family Portrait to class. This book shows people from all over the world, and their homes. The authors asked families to gather outside their homes with all their worldly possessions. The differences between the houses and belongings of people in different countries is striking. NOVA’s website includes some related multimedia resources. A related lesson plan is The Resource Racket, which uses the book to compare global distribution of resources among countries and to discuss the effects of excessive consumption. Houses and Homes is an alternative book choice, with an associated service learning project lesson plan.