Models of Social Studies Projects

An empty cardboard box can be the foundation for a social studies model.

A three-dimensional model can be helpful as a visual example for students at the beginning of a new social studies unit, chapter or assignment. As the teacher presents an introduction to a topic, whether it's settlement of the West, multicultural diversity, map making or another area of social studies, learning can be enhanced through hands-on activities. Three-dimensional models, such as dioramas, architectural structures or sculpture, can be visual proof of student learning.

1 Architecture Projects

Lessons that require students to build a model of architecture can be taught to children of almost any age, from kindergarten to eighth grade. Whether you're studying the life of colonial settlers, Native American cultures or urbanization, simple materials such as ice pop sticks, toothpicks and cardboard can be assembled into a model representing the architecture of that particular group. Show students visual examples, such as photographs and drawings, before asking them to make models.

2 Diorama

A diorama is a small vignette or scene created in a self-contained space, such as the interior of a shoe box. Five sides are intact and are incorporated into the diorama design, and one side is open, usually on the side, revealing the scene to the viewer. Students can use paper, artificial plants, moss, sticks, paint, doll house miniatures and clay figures to create their three-dimensional depiction of a scene or subject learned in social studies. Students can rest the sideways box on its upside-down lid to create a stable base and extend the design outward.

3 Representative Sculpture

Students can use self-hardening clay to make models. Animals, methods of transportation, cultural artifacts, religious objects and historic figures can be sculpted as part of a social studies unit. Sculptures should relate directly to concepts studied in class. They can be painted and displayed or presented as part of an oral report.

4 Abstract Sculpture

When students learn about the environment and how social norms and habits affect it, they become more aware of everyday objects--things that often get thrown in the trash or recycle bin. Ask students to collect milk jugs, water bottles, cereal boxes, aluminum cans or another disposable object for a set period of time. Make a model collaboratively as a class that represents the students' growing awareness of how waste affects the environment or put students into groups to work together to build found object models.

Aline Lindemann is a health, food and travel writer. She has also worked as a social worker, preschool teacher and art educator. Lindemann holds a Master of Liberal Studies in culture, health and creative nonfiction writing from Arizona State University.