Core units: Foundation Year — Exemplars

Illustration 1: Making a model of a place like mine

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography (and its various HASS-based iterations) content descriptions addressed in the illustration are:

  • The representation of the location of places and their features on maps and a globe
  • The places people live in and belong to, their familiar features and why they are important to people

Learning goals

This activity is designed to build on the natural play patterns of children (which includes the tendency to build miniature versions of what they see around them). You will guide your students to make a model by using toys and objects, which represent things in their local areas (place).

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • developing observational and representational skills
  • developing manual dexterity and fine motor skills
  • understanding groupings and combinations of geographical features
  • developing verbal communication skills in describing patterns seen in the model.

Geographical understanding and context

This activity fits into the continuum of learning skills of drawing and interpreting maps. The children are familiar with the toys used but have to use their imaginations to see pieces of cardboard, paper and other items as representing roads, trees, buildings and fences. In making the model, children will be looking down on it from above, seeing it in map form, as well as looking at it from the side. This helps them develop the first skill of map use – looking from above. The model town does not have to be to scale and it does not have to have a consistent key or a grid (all of these skills come later in the sequence of map-reading skills).

The development of students' geographical ideas related to natural and constructed features (and the grouping of these) can be done in discussions between you and the children when constructing or playing with the model town.

Teaching approaches

This activity can be developed in ways that suit your students, including as an ongoing project in a corner of the classroom, leading to further input, changes and play over time. Making models (PDF, 610 KB) shows photographs of four different models of various complexities which can be used to stimulate ideas.

1. Creating a model
The central activity of this illustration is the creation of a model of a place similar to the local area of the class. It is a play-based activity. The model can be as large or as small as you and your students want it to be. It can include objects such as:

  • plastic cubes or small boxes to represent houses
  • cardboard cartons
  • plasticine or playdough
  • sandpit area
  • natural materials such as branches and stones
  • pieces of card or felt to represent roads
  • cut out shapes for trees
  • toy cars
  • toy people
  • toy animals.

You might like to introduce this activity by asking your students about the place they live in. It could start with a simple model in a sand pit and then move inside, or vice versa. An open-ended question about choice of materials could be posed to the children.

2. Using conversation
While the children are constructing the model, they can be discussing the range of natural and built features which should be included, the relative placing of each of these in relation to other features, and the contributions that each of the features make to the place as a whole.

The activity should involve children in natural play with the objects. It should also involve much language use in discussing and describing the model.

The simplest form of this activity would be to just aim at creating a model of any urban or rural place with houses, roads, buildings, trees and other features. While the activity is in progress, you could then discuss with students their ideas for what features to include, which features are natural or built, which locations certain features should be placed in, and which features should go with each other.

3. Looking at different views
However simple or complex the task becomes, encourage your students to view the model settlement from above and from the side to notice the differences. You can discuss what the layout looks like from different viewpoints. To help students develop these precursor skills to effective map use, digital photographs could be taken of the model from above, from the side, and from an oblique angle. These could be displayed and discussed.

4. Extension activity
Simple computer software such as Kid Pix might be used to allow children to draw a version of their model. Shapes and objects in this program can be used to represent what the child wants. The conversations about this can help develop language skills.

A further extension might be to make models of contrasting places such as a forest, grassland, desert or city centre. An example is shown in the last photograph in Making models (PDF).

What you need

The materials needed to construct the models include:

  • coloured cardboard or paper or natural materials
  • blocks or boxes
  • paper
  • toys.

Preparation: Cutting shapes for roads, parks, trees and some other objects.
Time frame: Variable, from a few hours of construction up to a few weeks of using the completed model and modifying it in different ways.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum.

  • Listen to and respond orally to texts and to the communication of others in informal and structured classroom situations


  • Sort, describe and name familiar two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects in the environment
  • Sort and classify familiar objects and explain the basis for these classifications. Copy, continue and create patterns with objects and drawings
  • Describe position and movement


  • Explore and make observations by using the senses
  • Share observations and ideas


  • Sequence familiar objects and events


Making models (PDF). A number of photographs show images to stimulate ideas:

  • a simple model of a town made with toys and readily available materials
  • a model town made with a play mat and toys
  • a cardboard box model of a grassland savanna place, featuring toy animals and items made from cut-out paper
  • a more complex model of a town as part of a model railway layout.