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Drafts of a Cave Home

School: Shutesbury Elementary School

City/State: Shutesbury, MA

Grade(s): 5, 6

Format(s): Blueprint

Subject(s): Mathematics, Visual Arts

Project Overview

This entry shows the progression of the work of one student - from a 5th/6th grade classroom at the Shutesbury Elementary School in Shutesbury, Massachusetts - of a series of cross-sectional illustrations of a prehistoric cave dwelling. The medium for the final draft was pencil sketch, inked with black finepoint marker and colored with art-quality colored pencils.

As part of a Learning expedition focused on Architecture, students were taught how to do cross-sectional drafting. Beginning an historical study of residential architecture, the students started with cave dwellings and drew caves both from a plan view and a cross-sectional one. To understand the environment that they were asked to diagram, and as part of a team-building adventure activity, students explored local wild caves with adult guidance.

The task given to students was to create a prehistoric cave home in cross-sectional view in which people could actually live. This design task reinforced the understanding of section view in architecture by connecting to an image familiar to students from picture books of animals living (like people) in furnished homes underground or in hollow trees. Students also wrote a story about the people who lived in their fictionalized setting, including details about how they lived their lives.

This product is particularly useful for its documentation of the power of critique, revision and multiple drafts to improve work.

In the series shown here, the student went through the following drafts:

  • In the first draft the ideas are rough, details are poor, handwriting is sloppy, and the above ground portion hits right up to the top of the page. This student received critique to lower the whole image and enlarge the space for living areas
  • In the second draft, this student took the advice given by peers and lowered the image adding trees above ground, added ladders and created a secret room
  • By the third draft, this student included more interior space and clarified many of the conceptual details
  • In the fourth draft, many of the ideas seen in the final draft come into focus and shape. Trees are differentiated; the trees have roots. This student included much more detail. Though not shown here, the student did some work with color in between the 4th and final drafts, as a way to practice for the final version
  • In the final draft, the color and details are outstanding. While it is evident that this student built on the details and overall vision shown in the first few drafts, she  clarified and extended these ideas into a beautiful final draft

The dimensions of this product are 11 by 17 inches. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Demonstrates a highly engaging product – one that is fun to look at by people of all ages, and particularly young children; in fact, many children want to create their own version after viewing this model.
  • Provides a great model of perseverance through multiple drafts, with clear improvements between drafts.
  • Provides an example of the power of critique and revision: when you start by looking at the final drawing, most students would assume that the work was beyond their capabilities. However, by backtracking and showing the drafting and improvements, the end result actually seems attainable.
  • The color and details of the final draft are outstanding. Notice the details of the trees, the way in which the water fall flows through the ladder on the left, and the details of the weapons in the weapon room.
  • Highlights a format in which the work of each student can be individually assessed.

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