Lesson Plan

Duck Architecture: It's Not a Quack!

Students will explore Duck/Programmatic architecture and create their own architectural design.
Jim V.
Classroom teacher
Marshall Elementary School
Wexford, PA
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math
EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

  • Explore and discover different types of Duck Architecture
  • Write a descriptive paragraph about their Duck Architecture
  • Design  and build their own Duck Architecture
English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 3 - 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes


Open lesson by showing students the videos.  Also, use the PowerPoint to show students pictures of Duck Architecture structures.  While viewing the videos and PowerPoint, ask students guiding questions.  Guide students to define Duck Architecture in their own words.

  • What is the function of this building?
  • How big is it?
  • Where is it? 
  • Who might use this building? 
  • What would you do there?
  • Who might go there? 
  • What’s it like inside the building?
  • Imagine a day in the life of this building. 

Students can also explore more pictures online by searching Duck Architecture online.  Check your local area for examples of Duck Architecture-you never know if one is near you!


Ask students to imagine what a “Snail House” would look like.  Instruct them to draw it on paper or Google Drawings and write about it, describing the experience of being inside it.

  • How would you enter the house?
  • What is the sense of space in your “Snail House”
  • What natural, or constructed, features are around the house?

Next, show images of Bruce Goff’s Bavinger House (last page of the attached PDF) and ask them to compare and contrast his house with their drawing.  After a discussion, take students on a virtual tour of the house: https://vimeo.com/25522089 

As a guiding resource, used the Programmatic Architecture PDF to instruct students on this type of architecture.


Have students to design their own Duck Architecture.  Identify a need and address it with a building that takes its form from an object not normally associated with a building that will still describe its use.  For example, a building that looks like a stack of books might be a study center; a football shaped building may house locker rooms for the team.

Have students brainstorm a quick list of hobbies or things that interest them.  Look at the list carefully.  Is there something on there that could be turned into a fun Duck Architecture project?

Pick a name for your store or building and decide what customers will buy or do there.  Write a paragraph about your structure and describe it in a fun way that would make people want to visit!

Begin to sketch a basic design.  What would you like it to resemble?  What materials could you use to achieve the look that you want? 

Options for  design:

  1. Construct your project out of recycled materials (empty boxes, plastic bottles, egg cartons, wrapping paper tubes, and so on).
  2. Use Google Drawings or SketchUP to design your project
  3. Draw a detailed picture on paper

4 Wrap-Up

Have students present their final projects, including their descriptive paragraphs, to parents and peers.  The teacher can also set up a showroom where students have certain areas in the classroom that is designated for their project.  While the architect (student) is at the location, parents and peers can walk around to view the project, hear the presentation, and ask questions.  Try to make this similar to a gallery walk or what you would see at a museum.  

Attached is a sample rubric you can use for this project.