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Architectural Reliefs

Transform everyday buildings into a magical mathematical lesson. Students construct their own buildings through the discoveries of deconstruction.

  • Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. During an investigation into types of architecture, organize a walking tour of a local downtown or share a slide presentation of a variety of architectural examples from around the world. Appropriate magazines, photographs and other available drawings can add to students’ experience with identifying and sketching the shapes they see in various buildings. As a side note, discuss the variety of buildings, where they are located and how each may reflect the people that built each.
    2. Once the whole group experience is complete, organize students into small groups and ask them to create a written list of shapes discovered. Groups make connections between the 2-dimentional shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, circle, ellipse) and their 3-dimensional counterparts (rectangular prism, triangular prism, rectangular pyramid, triangular pyramid, cube, cylinder, cone). How do architects use these shapes to create a variety of building types?
    3. Distribute copy paper, Crayola© Pointed-Tip Scissors and tape to student groups. Ask each to create models of the 3-D forms discussed in Step #2. Additional supplies such as rulers should be on hand if needed.
    4. Ask teams to select one of each type of 3-D form (rectangular prism, triangular prism, rectangular pyramid, triangular pyramid, cube, cylinder, cone) as representative of the group. Students then deconstruct the remaining forms created. Challenge students to find the mathematical relationship of shapes to their surface area (or nets) and apply the appropriate mathematical formula to determine volume of given forms. How could the same formula be applied to the same 3-D form on any scale (size) in the real world? Allow time for discussion.
    5. Individually, students sketch out the types of buildings that their architectural reliefs might feature using Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils and construction paper. Each should include a list of forms required to accomplish the sketches. Students plan the amount of recycled cardboard needed to construct their buildings. (Teachers need to decide if they want a minimum or maximum background piece of cardboard as it will determine the scale of forms used in reliefs.)
    6. Provide class time for students to measure and cut cardboard into required shapes.
    7. Once shape cutting is complete, rub Crayola Drawing Chalks across one side of the cardboard surface (outside faces of form). Additional materials such as Color Sticks and Crayons can be applied on top of the chalk surface for details or for unique color experimentation.
    8. Students experiment with the layout for their architectural forms. Remind them that in addition to the building(s), they must plan how much of background surfaces need to be colored for atmospheric details (sky/ground).
    9. Once all parts have been colored and are ready to assemble, students use Crayola School Glue to attach forms onto their background surfaces. Allow to dry.
    10. To accompany architectural relief artwork, students compose a descriptive paragraph detailing the inspiration for their buildings and how they incorporated geometric shapes. Display student artwork.
  • Standards

    LA: Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    MATH: Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems.

    MATH: Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.

    SS: Describe how people create places that reflect ideas, personality, culture, and wants and needs as they design homes, playgrounds, classrooms, and the like.

    VA: Creativity and innovative thinking are essential life skills that can be developed.

    VA: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

    VA: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

  • Adaptations

    Possible resources include: Printable shapes retrieved from

    Invite interested students to investigate Ancient Greek Architectural Friezes. To accompany their research, students can use Crayola Air-Dry Clay to re-create a self-selected frieze.

    Students create 3-dimensional buildings including a variety of geometric shapes.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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