If You Build It …

Online Lesson Plan
If You Build It …

lrGuyLesson Plan by , Assistant Professor in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education at UNL and a Co-Director of the Great Plains Institute for Reading and Writing. He is affiliated with the elementary education program as well as the UNL literacy group. He received his PhD in 2002 in Education from the University of California Riverside.


Subject Area:
Reading & Social Studies
Suggested Grade Level:
Grades 3-5
Learning Modality:
Kinesthetic Learners
Multiple Intelligence:
Spacial Intelligence
Bloom’s Taxonomy:

What are these educational concepts?
 What are these educational concepts?





The student will:


  • understand how farm life has changed during the first half of the 20th century.
  • research a specific element of the farmstead and create a 3D model.
  • compare and contrast an element of the farmstead across the decades (1900-1950).



In this project-based lesson students will gain a real understanding of how the integration of traditional farming and modern technology has changed the face of the American farmstead. The combination of model-making and research allows the students, through the use of multiple modalities, to appreciate both the design and structure of the farmstead the deliberate result of farmers considering both environment and technology.

The lesson incorporates two comprehension strategies: A focus on main ideas and details in expository text; and a focus on comparing and contrasting over time and between elements.


The Resources

Links from within the Wessels Living History Farm site. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you’ll be back to this page.] Direct the students read the stories on each of these pages.

Links to Websites Other than Wessels Living History Farm. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you’ll be back to this page.] Direct the students read the stories on this website.


The Process

Have the students do additional outside research on the development of the American Farmstead.

As a class, discuss the physical elements of an average-sized farmstead and how they have changed over the decades from 1920-1960.

Draw a “floor plan” for a “modern” farmstead.

  • Divide the students up into small groups and have each group construct a 3D model of one element of the farmstead. Use a variety of materials – popsicle sticks, cardboard cut-out, paper mache (½ cup Elmer’s glue to ½ cup water and torn brown paper bags or newspaper), etc).
  • Have the groups write a description of the element (its name, use, and/or function on the farm, and how it has been developed/innovated over time).
  • Combine all the elements to construct a complete 3D model with an annotated legend.

The students should fill out a “Comparison-Over-Time Chart” for their element that includes the name of the element, the use/function, the size, and the construction materials. They should then write a brief paragraph (on the same piece of paper) that details the main innovations/changes in the element (either use/function or design) from 1900-1960.


Learning Advice

This is a long-term project and should be done in units over the course of a week or two.


Conclusion of the Lesson

The groups orally present their element. The teacher guides a discussion that compares and contrasts the development of the different elements including why or why not things have changed over time.


Assessment Activity

The students should be graded on several elements of the project:

  1. The accuracy of their model (design, scale, color, etc.).
  2. The completeness of their general description document.
  3. The completeness of their comparison-over-time chart.
  4. Their participation in the group.
  5. Their ability to orally present their findings.


General Notes

Students should be encouraged to seek outside sources, especially photographs and drawings, of American farms.


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