• 52: Making BOX CITY Work in Flint, Michigan

    52: Making BOX CITY Work in Flint, Michigan

    The workshop participants departed, two women spoke to Anna Slafer, the CUBE workshop coordinator, with these words: “I have to tell you that we came to this workshop today determined to move away from Flint, Michigan. We are leaving this workshop energized, excited, and wanting to participate in the development of a new Flint.”

    The opening activities included among other things:

    Purpose: to show that we are all affected by our environments and we are all designers

    Childhood Space Exercise:Remember a childhood space that made a big impression on you Walk around in this environment (the classroom) and see how it makes you feel.

    Anna reminded the group that every city changes, and that this was true for the Box City they were building. That the changes usually made a situation for change: a dilapidated highway, abandoned buildings, empty lots. They were advised that thy should get advice from their neighboring groups and that by listening to the feelings of others, they might want to change their minds about what they were planning. This happened within this group in both major and minor situations. The group with the major differences ended up laughing and chatting by the end of the workshop.

    Workshop assistants (trained on the afternoon before) circulated among the groups asking questions like, “Why would you do this?” “Is this where this really belongs?” “Would you really want to live here?” Both groups, the planners and the participants, were surprised at how frank the workshop assistants were with their questions. The questions made the participants really think abut what they were doing.

    Anna ended by showing simple examples of successful real things that neighborhoods had already done: The Wheatley neighborhood Transportation project; the Porch Project, a swing on the front porch available to all.

    Many projects are discussed in CUBE’s Community Connections. For review were other books on simple goals for neighborhood participation.

    Contact: Anna Slafer, CUBE Cadre, 

  • 49: CUBE Resources Library

    49: CUBE Resources Library

    Teachers can always find additional ideas and resources in our Library & Information Center. Since 2002, in addition to our own collection, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana has been the home of the CUBE resource library. We offer children’s books, classroom activity ideas, tested lessons with an inter-disciplinary approach, as well as books on architectural styles and preservation techniques for students, teachers and the public. (Suzanne has been a long-time member and board member of CUBE. She and Ginny have co-led workshops in Indianapolis and elsewhere. Her full title is Director of Heritage Education which includes workshops statewide, management of Historic Landmarks' heritage education tours program, and the Morris-Butler House Museum.)

    Contact Suzanne Stanis ( for more information on the collection and how to access it.

  • 47: Mock City Memphis

    47: Mock City / Memphis

    The Memphis program included the development and building of a mock city that students constructed with cardboard boxes. Alicia Cobbs, an employee with Memphis & Shelby County Division of Planning and Development (DPD), helped students with their project. “They built communities from boxes to enhance their knowledge of city planning”, she said. City planning is a concept that students weren’t familiar with, but Cobbs, along with two other facilitators from DPD, taught students how to create a community with boxes, and in the process attempted to enhance their awareness of the built environment, and also teach/reinforce relevant vocabulary. The other two instructors were Krishna Kasi and Brett Roler. During the finale it was apparent that the program was extremely effective. What a wonderful way to promote literacy.

    The lessons that more than 30 academically at-risk students learned during a 12-week summer classroom program had more to do with the arts than your typical school curriculum. Within that time frame, students ages six to sixteen got an introduction to Gordon Parks, an African-American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director, through a program called, “Literacy Through the Arts.” The program was sponsored by Glenview Community Development Partners, Inc. and funded in part by a State of Tennessee Enhancement Grant and the Tennessee Cultural Heritage Preservation Society.

    “We tried to get the kids to see that there was someone who looked like them who went through the struggles of life and still made it through,” said Earlice Taylor, the program’s executive director. “We centered our literacy instruction around Gordon Park’s life and works. Six highly qualified professionals devoted their time for twelve Saturdays to help broaden the literacy skills of these students who otherwise may be devoid of art and culture.”

  • 50: New Haven Box City

    50: New Haven Box City

    Imagine constructing a whole community from the ground up, in one weekend. This year, at Village of Villages, take part in Box City – a fun, interactive activity designed to teach participants of all ages about the styles and structure of architecture, the concepts of community planning, and the value of being a responsible citizen.

    Box City provides a hands-on experiential approach to community planning and design principles; it instills understanding of the development of communities and their present problems and successes.

    Create your own buildings from recycle materials and then build community by placing the boxes on a base plan, at the same time learning how geography, economics, ecology, history and cultures affect development.

  • 53: Prince George Box City

    53: Prince George Box City

    We just wanted to let you know about a “Box City” workshop that we just did up here in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada on Oct. 22-23, 2010. At a Generation YES youth leadership conference, students from across BC were introduced to community planning and the Box City concept during a 1-hour workshop (which we ran 4 times over the 2-day conference). We initially talked about community and what it is and got each student to identify their special places/places they love to go to or hang out it within their community (to realize that there are things they all love about their community and are connected with it).

    Then we talked about community planning and how it should consider the geography, environment, all people and long-term thinking. They broke into groups and got to build their own community. Each group had a large cardboard layout painted with mountains, rivers, grassland and forest on which to place their ‘buildings’. They had about 26 pre-painted/pre-labeled buildings to work with and place, plus a blank box (they got to choose what it was). They also had mini bus stops, trails (strips of brown paper), roads (clip art road strips that we cut out), and 5 laminated pictures (a farm, landfill, community garden, park and airport) to place.

    Each group presented their ‘community’ and why they chose to place each box where they did. We discussed the social and environmental impacts of the different placements. The students were then given role-play cards (eg. Farmer, factory worker, child, senior, etc) and had to think as if they were that person and could then move the boxes from their viewpoint. We also discussed ‘what-if’ scenarios, such as what buildings will be impacted if the river floods (including environmental impact), and what if the population doubles.

    The workshop ended with discussing how the youth could get involved in their own community and in community planning. We wanted the youth to know that they are an important part of their community and communities need their energy, expertise, solutions, interests, visions, etc. Some youth discussed what they are already doing in their communities to make them better places. They were given a hand-out at the end about how to get involved and who to contact in their communities.

    The students really enjoyed building their “box community’, and we received positive feedback from the teachers/adults who were with the students


    Tanya Begin

    REAPS Environmental Educator

    Recycling and Environmental Action Planning Society 

    PO Box 444, Prince George, BC V2L 4S6 

    Phone: 250-561-7327

    Fax: 250-561-7324



  • 44: Plymouth East Builds BOX CITY

    44: Plymouth East Builds BOX CITY

    Preethi Kesavan (left) and Kara Kitze (right), dual-mayors of Box City assemble the city hall and courtyard in the historic downtown district of their miniature "green" city. Eigth graders in the gifted and talented program at East Middle School in Plymouth built the city from recycled materials found in their homes. The Box City is set up at Kellogg Park as part of this weekend's first annual Green Street Fair in downtown Plymouth. Students assembled the Box City on Friday, May 2, 2008.

    Glen LeRoy, CUBE Cadre, Dean of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI.

    I worked with a school in Plymouth last year on an eco-Box City for an event called the Green Street Fair. It was very successful. This year, I am working with about 400 kids in an elementary school in Bloomfield Hills (I think). They are in contact with CUBE and they are buying the curriculum. It feels good to get back into Box City again. Contact me anytime as a part of your "national network." I am willing to help.

    From Rachel Rork, Green Street Fair

    Wow, these pictures are so fun, click on the link then click right arrow to scroll through! Thanks everyone for a fantastic project! Everyone loved it!

  • 48: Box City Monona Terrace 2008

    48: Box City Monona Terrace 2008

    The Players

    1050 Dane County elementary and middle school students

    49 teachers

    12 schools from Madison, Middleton-Cross Plains, and Sun Prairie districts

    23 Volunteer Mentors who are professionals in the fields of architecture and planning

    Over 1200 people at the public event

    20 Monona Terrace volunteers offering tireless support!

    Five Teacher Workshops presented in partnership with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

    “What’s It Mean to be Green?”

    “Building Green Buildings in Your Classroom”

    “Great Neighborhoods: Teaching about Neighborhood Design”

    “Smart Growth: Lessons for Community Planning”

    “Internet Map Resources for Your Classroom”


    Friends of Monona Terrace

    Wisconsin Architects Foundation

    American Planning Association, Wisconsin Chapter

    Madison Gas & Electric Foundation, Inc

    Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center

    What participants are saying...

    “By all means participate! The connections to our standards our numerous. The relevance/authenticity is high. The ‘public performance’ aspect motivates incredible work. And-oh yes-it’s fun!”

    “I have highly recommended Terrace Town to many teachers offering curriculum support materials. ...I think it is an excellent program”

    “Fantastic method of teaching in a multiple intelligence way.” 

  • 40: BOX CITY Meets Curriculum Standards

    40: BOX CITY Meets Curriculum Standards

    From Ginny Graves, CUBE National Outreach

    It is always fun to see a Box City "newbie" jump in with both feet and make the thing happen. A big thanks to Tim Schickles, Director of the Museum/Longway Planetarium, and former collaborator of mine in the Kansas City Union Station effort. Shortly after the event, a note from Laurie says, "Box City absolutely rocked! Our teachers did a great job. They're making comments, 'We'd like to do this next year.' Our potential funder is very interested in hooking up with the Genesee County Land Bank and others working to beautify Flint."

    For those of you have asked how to integrate Box City into museum activities, and even how to have a permanent Box City activity in your museums, this is one answer.

    Sloan's Box City met so many items on the evaluation matrix: partners; funding; curriculum standards; training; public display. Please note the information boards in the background of the photos of the Box Cities. The students summarize what they have learned. The information is passed to a greater circle of citizens. A tri-fold brochure with ideas about making your own Box City also augmented the workshop and exhibit experiences.

    Box City Sponsor: Sloan Museum
    Coordinator and Resource: Laurie Bone.
    Location: Flint, Michigan in the Sloan Museum Community Gallery
    Participants: 15 elementary schools
    Workshop Leader: Anna Slafer, CUBE Cadre

  • 39: Build a Box City

    39: Build a city from boxes

    By Steven Ellis

    Ask third-grader Marmarah Similien what an ideal city needs, and you'll get a matter-of-fact answer: a science museum just for kids, she says. That's where she wants to work when she grows up.

    So she built one - out of shoe boxes, construction paper, and Popsicle sticks. It's her addition to the cardboard city that she and her classmates built in June at the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School in Boston.

    Students in two third-grade classes spent five weeks learning about municipalities, touring neighborhoods near their school, and meeting with local architects (people who design and draw plans for buildings, roads, bridges, and so forth).

    Then the students put the finishing touches on the miniature houses and buildings they built to make "City Park." It's their small-scale version of a modern city.

    Occupying about half of a classroom floor, City Park includes everything the students feel a real city should have: school, pet shop, city hall, swimming pool, and a park with monuments (which appear to be white chess pieces). Black strips of plastic - representing streets - divide the neighborhoods into neat grids.

    The city even includes a baseball field resembling Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. It's complete with bleachers made from egg cartons and a large outfield wall (made from a cardboard box that once held books) that's just like the "Green Monster" at Fenway. (These kids love the Red Sox!)

    Through a statewide Learning by Design program, students learned how to plan and construct a thoughtfully designed community - one they'd like to live in when they grow up.

    It's about creating an awareness of what a community can offer, says Erica Olandt, an architect who worked with the students. It teaches them the skills to communicate their ideas about man-made and natural environments - and about themselves.

    During the first two weeks of the program, students studied elements of architecture and design. They learned about technical terms such as facade (say fuh-SOD), a name for the front of a building. They also discovered how scaffolding is used to support builders and materials.

    They also learned about scale. Using pipe cleaners, the students created "people" about 1-1/2 to 2 inches tall. It gave them an idea about how big to make the various elements of their buildings, says Paul Moore, an architect and volunteer. "You've got to think about the people coming into the building. You've got to put the door in a place that fits."

    Many of the students worked in pairs. Sophia Joseph and a classmate designed the city hall. "It's where the mayor works," Sophia says. "And if you want something, you ask permission [at city hall]. If the mayor says 'yes,' you can do it."

    City hall is the tallest building in City Park and has about "eight floors with 52 windows," she says. But there isn't an elevator. She was too busy figuring out how to make a chimney (a toilet-paper tube) point straight up from the roof. With the help of a glue stick - and an adult - she finally positioned it the way she wanted.

    Wilders Pierre, Charles Labbe, and Ralph Hyacinthe designed the fire station with double-wide garage doors - for the firetrucks, of course. They chose to make their roof flat. That's because "I've been to a fire station, and I didn't see a [slanted] roof," says Wilders.

    When the trio was deciding what color to make their roof, they settled on red. "We weren't sure what to do, so we took a vote," Wilders says. "[Charles and I] wanted the red."

    That's the kind of teamwork that teacher Daniella Pierre-Louis is happy to see from her students. "The kids are working together and using each other's ideas," she says. Architects work that way, too. Everyone contributes to the final decisions.

    The science museum for kids that Marmarah built was placed next to the public school in the center of City Park. That way she and her friends could visit the "dinosaur bone exhibit" or the gift shop on their half-hour lunch break.

    Building cities is a lot of work, Marmarah says. It takes time and careful planning. But "it's also a lot of fun to build them."

    So, are there any budding architects from this crop of students? "Nah," says Ralph with a big smile. "I want to go to high school and then be the president of the United States."

    Should that happen, Ralph says he has some ideas for the nation's capital, thanks to the Learning by Design program: "More fire stations," he says. With red roofs, of course.

    Be the Architect of your own box city

    You don't have to be a student at Kenny Elementary School in Boston to build your own box city. It's fun for everyone. But you will need to save some empty cereal boxes, old Popsicle sticks, and cardboard tubes. They will become the buildings and bridges in your town.

    Also needed are construction paper, glue, and markers, crayons, colored pencils, or paint - to decorate your city.

    Once your materials are gathered, use pipe cleaners and paper to make "people" to live in your city.

    You'll want the city and the people to be in scale. If you make the figures first - about 1-1/2 to 2 inches tall - that will give you an idea of the size to make your homes and other buildings.

    Then start thinking about what elements you'd like your city to have. Will it include houses, stores, a library, churches, and schools? What about fire and police stations? Will it have a park, a sports stadium, a river, or bridges?

    Once you've figured out what structures will be included, decide where all of it will go. You can sketch it on a piece of paper.

    Next, create your buildings using the cardboard items, glue, and markers. Be creative but realistic. Remember, your scale figures have to live in the town you create. Did you make the doors big enough for them to fit through - but not too big?

    Arrange each completed building and house on the floor or a large table. You can add streets using strips of black construction paper cut to size, or create "grass" with green paper or old carpet.

    The final step is most fun: Name your town. What did you call yours?

    Source: Christian Science Monitor: The Home Forum> Kidspace from the September 26, 2006 edition