Lesson Plan

School for Monsters - A PBL Unit on Universal Design Principles

Teach your upper grade students about Universal Design with this fun architecture project!
Kelly A.
Classroom teacher
Ladue Middle School
St. Louis, MO
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
Digitial Citizenship and EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

  • identify and apply principles of Universal Design
  • use design thinking to create a structure that meets specific needs of the user
  • build 3D structures using professional modeling software
Social Studies
cultural understanding
Grades 8 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Introduce + Preview

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Ask your students the essential question: What is Universal Design?

Tell students they have 5 minutes to find links, videos, and text descriptions about Universal Design principles. Have an open Padlet ready for students to post their responses. Give students 5 minutes to research and post, then 10 minutes to read everything their classmates have posted on the topic. Your students should have a solid understanding of the key aspect of Universal Design: buildings are accessible for all people, regardless of ability. You might ask your students to give examples of Universal Design features that we see in buildings every day, such as ramps, Braille signage, and elevators.

2 Brainstorm + Research

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Google Drive
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Explain to students that for this project, they are going to be designing a school for a fictional monster of their choice. It could be any monster they wish, but some familiar choices are dragons, minotaur, and chimera. Give your students plenty of time to choose a monster, thoroughly research it, and brainstorm features that their monster might need in a school. Your students might use Evernote, Coggle, or any of the doctypes in Google Drive to organize their research ideas.


If your students get stuck thinking of design features, here are some guiding questions that might help them:

  • What biome does your monster live in?
  • How does your monster move?
  • What does your monster eat?
  • What special skills does your monster have that they might need to learn in school?

3 Learn the Tool

Give your students plenty of time (at least 2 days) to teach themselves the basics of SketchUp using tutorial videos. YouTube and Schooltube are both great options for this. Your students should get familiar with the orbit, shape, push/pull, and texture features very quickly, as they are the bedrock of structures in SketchUp. It’s a good idea for students to have their own SketchUp window side-by-side with a tutorial video, so that they can “play along” with the demonstration.

4 Iterate + Evaluate

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Finally, have your students build their schools in SketchUp, incorporating all of the information they’ve learned so far. How you evaluate your students is in your own hands, but I like to look for varying shapes in the building, landscape elements, “creature features” that incorporate elements of Universal Design principles, and overall cohesiveness/visual flow of the design.