How to Build a Lighthouse for a School Project

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, lighthouses serve two purposes--to warn sailors of dangers and to guide ships into harbours. Modern lighthouses in the United States are considered historical monuments, and are known for their unusual beauty and distinctive look.

Teach elementary students about the lighthouses by building a small model. Show students photos of lighthouses from old calendars to give them an idea about the parts of the lighthouse, and how they are painted. Once decorated, group the models together in a classroom display.

Decorate the paper plate to look like an island. Colour the edge of the plate blue, to look like water. Colour the centre portion of the plate beige or brown to simulate sand, grey to simulate rocks, and green to simulate grass. Once decorated, set it aside.

Cut a toilet paper tube in half (each piece should be 2 inches tall). Discard one piece and set the other aside.

Turn the cup upside-down and trace the circle onto a piece of construction paper; this circle will serve as the peaked roof of the lighthouse. Cut a slit into the circle going only half way.

Form a peaked roof with the circle by slipping one side over the other, then tape the inside of the roof. Set it aside.

Cut a strip of this same coloured construction paper 5 ½-by-1 inch--this will serve as the lower portion of the lantern room. Attach the strip to the lower portion of the toilet paper tube.

Cut a strip of yellow construction paper to 5 ½-by-1 inch and attach to the top of the toilet paper tube. This will serve as the lighted portion of the lantern room. Set it aside.

Decorate the upside-down cup with markers to look like a lighthouse. Include external features such as a door and windows.

Glue the decorated cup to the centre of the paper plate island.

Glue the lantern room to the top of the lighthouse.

Form the lightening rod by dipping one end of the wooden bead into the white glue, then set it on the top of the peaked roof. Add a drop of glue into the centre of the bead, and place a 1-inch piece of toothpick into the centre of the bead.


Before attaching the yellow construction paper to the toilet paper tube, decorate the paper with a window pattern such as small squares or "x" shapes that have been bisected. Allow students to add more detail to their lighthouse model by gluing small pebbles to the plate, or adding moss or signs indicating the name of the lighthouse.


Fine-tipped markers work best for marking details on the styrofoam cup and construction paper; thicker tipped markers tend to bleed on the construction paper.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 large paper plate
  • Markers or paint
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • 1 empty toilet paper roll
  • Coloured construction paper
  • Tape
  • 1 (454gr. or larger) styrofoam cup
  • White glue
  • 1 (10mm) wooden bead
  • 1 wooden toothpick
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About the Author

Daniella Lauren has worked with eHow and various new media sites as a freelance writer since 2009. Her work covers topics in education, business, and home and garden. Daniella holds a Master of Science in elementary education and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Pensacola Christian College.