How to Build a Model Town

Written by dawn marcotte
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How to Build a Model Town
Building a model town helps students as they study cities. (town image by martini from

The study of cities can be expanded by the design and creation of a model town. Choose a scale to use for the model. Determine if the model will be of an existing town or the creation of a new city. Encourage students to design their own buildings when appropriate. Choose building materials such as Legos or wood blocks for smaller towns. Use cardboard or styrofoam for larger structures. Determine what types of structures will be built and the final size of the city before beginning construction.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Large cardboard base
  • List of buildings
  • Cardboard sheets
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Matchbox/model-scale cars

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    How to Make the Buildings

  1. 1

    Choose the scale for the buildings. A small scale is 1 centimetre = 10 feet. Determine what buildings will be made. Skyscrapers, museums, hotels, houses, apartment buildings, shopping malls, schools, hospitals, firehouses, police stations, movie theatres, restaurants and storefronts are possible buildings to include.

  2. 2

    Determine the actual size of the structure and calculate the scale size. For example, a skyscraper such as the Sears Tower that is 1,450 feet tall will be 145 centimetres tall, using the scale of 1 centimetre = 10 feet. The width of the building is 225 feet, so the model will be 22.5 centimetres.

  3. 3

    Measure four rectangles of the correct size for the desired building and mark clearly with a pencil on sheets of cardboard. These are the sides of a square building. Measure and mark one square on the cardboard sheet to use for the top of the building. Measure four rectangles 145 centimetres long and 22.5 centimetres wide for the example of the Sears Tower. Measure and cut one square that is 22.5 centimetres on each side for the roof. Draw details such as windows, doors or architectural decorations as desired on the cardboard before cutting it out.

  4. 4

    Cut out the four rectangles and one square from the cardboard. Lay the rectangular cardboard pieces on a flat surface with their long sides parallel to each other and touching. The side with details drawn should be facing down toward the flat surface. Place a piece of tape vertically along the seam between the first two pieces of cardboard. Repeat the process with the other two seams.

  5. 5

    Stand the cardboard up vertically and bend at each seam to create the four sides of the building. Apply a strip of tape along all four corners to secure the cardboard in place. Set the cardboard square on top of the building and apply tape around all four seams to secure it in place.

    Building the Town

  1. 1

    Determine where buildings will be placed on the cardboard base. Set the buildings in their assigned place and review for placement of streets, parks, sidewalks or other structures that will be painted directly onto the cardboard base.

  2. 2

    Mark the cardboard base with the location of each building and set the buildings aside. Paint features such as roads, parks or water as desired on the cardboard base. Allow the paint to dry overnight.

  3. 3

    Glue buildings in place on the cardboard base. Add details such as Matchbox or similar model-scale cars, model trees or lampposts, as desired. Glue all items securely in place. Allow the glue to dry overnight.

Tips and warnings

  • Build more complex buildings by creating towers of different sizes and stacking them on top of each other. Use Legos or smaller blocks to create a smaller town.
  • Once built, the city may be too large to move.

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