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Lindsay, I learned a great idea at a professional development this summer. It is a great group project. Ahead of time: Go online and search out house designs. They always either have photos or drawings of the house. Print the pix, take to a copier to either enlarge or decrease in size. It does take a while to get it to the scale you want. Cut out the house shape and glue to a piece of 1" x whatever, and cut out the shape. Purchase shallow (about 3" deep or so) plastic containers with lids. these can be whatever size rectangle you like or can find. ( like a 10" x 15"). Fill with white play sand. Next, brainstorm some ideas for parts of the landscape. Femo clay is nice to use. Gumdrops candy, what ever you think will work. Our instructor had taken wire, twisted it together and welded a bit to form roots, trunk, and limbs of a tree, and had used a cotton ball for the canopy. You can make different types of driveways from cutting out black construction paper, a blue rectangle could be a pool, green felt or construction paper could be grass, brown felt or paper could be mulch, etc. Just let your imagination run with it.... When using it in a lesson, distribute the sandboxes, allow the groups to choose the house and materials and do a 3D design. The sand helps the house to sit up. Then they will draw it to scale. When students can build the landscape like that, it helps them to understand how to draw it.
I plan to take it a step further and use a variety of houses--beach, mountain cabin, formal mansion, suburbs, etc and have the students design the appropriate landscape. If you have lots of time to spend on the project, you could actually have the students research the plants and design the models to use, making sure to keep them to scale.
Hope this helps some. I cannot wait to use it this year.
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Something that the kids could do that I always start off with is scale. They have to know scale if they are doing landscaping you can do regular rulers or architect scales if you have them. I use architect scales because in our Nursery and Landscape CDE contest kids have to be able to read and understand architect scales. I draw out random lines using different scales and differing lengths and kids have to measure and write down the length. I've also done a worksheet where it has a house and a worksheet to go along with it. The worksheet says what needs to be drawn on the house and where the kids get the hand out of the house blueprint architect scale and circle template. We do a lot of practice drawing symbols. Basically they have a packet of symbols and blank circles I say okay, draw 3 symbols from each page, or draw this symbol 3 times. Helps with it being neat. You could do pricing, although not exciting or fun at all sometimes it needs to be covered. One thing I picked up this summer at a workshop was kids get a blueprint of the landscaping then using paper plates and tape they have to outline the bed and plants on the floor. I'll attach the bedding blue prints for you, if that is something the kids want to try. We've done measure stuff outside and draw it inside, if you have flowerbeds kids can measure then draw. My first year I did do a design your own landscape project, where kids used popsicle sticks for house, foam and clay for the plants.