BLACKFOOT – Every year the second grade at Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center (BCCLC), engages students in a project-based learning unit of building a city. Not only do students learn about all of the work that goes into planning and zoning, proper etiquette in city council meetings, characteristics of rural, suburban and urban communities, how to creatively reuse everyday products, but perhaps most important of all, they learn how to effectively work together with peers.

Teachers Katrina Elliott, Jennifer Ferguson, Tiffany Hansen, Emily Davie, and Lauri Aubrey all agree that while this project is very intense and a little crazy, it is worth it as it covers 22 different ELA content standards, three math content standards, and gives the students an opportunity to exercise their creativity. According to Davie, “Content standards are guidelines of what teachers need to teach and what students need to learn.” Content standards are a requirement throughout the state, but each school and district vary in how they are implemented.

A project of such large size does take a lot of prep and planning in order for the final result to be brought to fruition. The second grade students begin learning about characteristics of communities and planning and zoning in January. This year, the students, teachers and some parents were able to visit the city offices, meet Mayor (Marc) Carroll and even visit the library as well. Once back at school, students decide what their city must have. These ideas are then taken to a mock city council meeting where students learn to speak in front of peers and present their ideas all while following “Robert’s Rules of Order.” These rules help to instill manners in students so that they are able to practice taking a vote and be willing to listen to ideas of their peers.

One of the main concepts of building a city is that each student works with one or two of their peers which are assigned by their teacher. “Collaboration is an important life skill,” said Aubrey. Students learn that sometimes finding ways to compromise can be challenging, but an important life skill nonetheless. Students also learn that they don’t always get to work with their best buddy. “Many students have worked well with partners they didn’t expect to work well with,” stated Hansen. This is what makes this project based unit so unique. Students are able to learn necessary content standards, but they are also able to learn skills to help them be more tolerant, kind and flexible.

Once partners have been established and they have an opportunity to write about each other, students then move towards designing a 2D blueprint of their section of the city. During this phase, students learn about point of view and mapping. Then, they are able to move towards building. The teachers encourage them to exercise their creativity by finding regular everyday items in which they can use to create something for their city. “Building a 3D city is a great way to show kids that you can re-purpose items that would otherwise be thrown away. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also shows kids that you can do so much with trash,” explained Elliott. The building phase is easily the most anticipated portion for the students.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the city is seeing in its completed form. “I love the whole project-based idea. Students working together in building and problem solving incorporates so many skills. When the project is completed, the students have so much pride in their work” stated Ferguson.

The massive scale of the city is one that the teachers encourage the public to check out. The teachers and students invite all parents to the City Reveal today at 2 p.m. The city will also be on display today at the BCCLC campus, 2801 Hunters Loop, from 6-7:30 p.m. during STEM night.

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