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Art Lesson | 10 Homes

Art Lesson

Design/Build with prefab and recyclables (using the Eames House and Glidehouse as examples)

Eames House


In this lesson, students will design and build a model of a home using recycled and/or prefabricated materials much like the Eames House and the Glidehouse.

Grades: 6 - 12
Time: 3 - 4 periods


This lesson addresses selected standards from the McRel Visual Arts Standards.

McRel Visual Arts

  • Level III (Grades 5 – 8)
    • Standard 1: Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts.
    • Standard 2: Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art.
  • Level IV (Grades 9 – 12)


To prepare to teach this lesson, teachers should:

  • Watch the Eames House and Glidehouse segments from the PBS special, 10 Homes that Changed America on DVD or online.
  • Review the lesson plan.
  • Download and print the planning worksheet, the design worksheet, and the scale rulers. You may print the scale rulers on cardstock and then either cut them out yourself or have your students cut them out.
  • Review the resources below to become familiar with the Eames House and the Glidehouse.



  • copies of planning worksheets, design worksheets, and scale rulers
  • pencils
  • scissors
  • glue, tape, or other fasteners such as paper fasteners or staples
  • heavy cardboard for the base of the models (e.g., corrugated cardboard, recycled from boxes)
  • recycled and prefab materials brought in from home

Period 1

  1. Students should watch the Eames House and Glidehouse segments from 10 Homes that Changed America. Ask students to share what they remember is special about the Eames House and the Glidehouse. Elicit the following answers: “They were built with prefab materials, they were built with recycled materials, they were inexpensive, they could be built quickly.” Make sure students understand what prefab and recycled mean.
  2. Tell students that they are going to design and build a model of their own prefab and recycled house, much like the Eames House and the Glidehouse.
  3. With the class, generate a list of ideas for the program of their house (on chart paper or white board or SMART Board). In architecture, the program is how the building will be used, e.g., a two-bedroom house for one family, or a small apartment building for four families, etc. Create a list of the different permutations or examples that they might design and build.
  4. Distribute planning worksheets. Students work in pairs to:
    1. Generate ideas of materials that they will use for their house. Emphasize items that are readily available and that they may bring in from home, e.g., cardboard tubes from toilet paper or paper towels, cardboard from cereal or other food boxes, plastic from toy packaging (used for windows, for example), bottle caps, wine corks, fabric scraps, buttons, toothpicks, coffee stirrers, aluminum from take-out food trays, straws, bubble wrap; etc.
    2. Agree upon the program of their model home.
  5. Share students’ work. Students should be prepared to bring in their items from home for the next session. Tell students that during the next class they will design their model home.

Period 2

  1. Review students’ planning worksheets and remind them that today they are going to design—and possibly begin to build—their models. Make sure that students understand the concept of a model, i.e., a smaller representation of life-sized. Distribute design worksheets and scale rulers.
  2. Tell students that when they design their houses, they must all be the same relative size. Ask students if it would make sense if one group made a house that was supposed to be two floors tall and the model was two feet tall, and another group made a two-story house and the model ended up being two inches tall. For this reason, explain that they are going to use the scale rulers. You need not go into a lengthy explanation of scale at this juncture (unless you wish to). It will suffice to say that they will use the scale rulers where 1’ = ¼”.
  3. Distribute design worksheets. Remind students that apart from using the recycled and prefab materials, they should think about their design in terms of its modularity and reproducibility. In other words, like the Eames House and the Glidehouse, these types of homes are meant to be easily constructed anywhere. Remind students that the Glidehouse is assembled in a factory and then trucked to the building site. Students work in pairs to design their home. Their designs must include information about the type of materials they will use for the different parts of their design. Students must also create an attractive design, one that people would want to live in. Students share their designs.
  4. If time permits, students may begin building their models.

Period 3 – 4

  1. Students work in pairs to build their model house. They use their design worksheet to guide them as they build. If they finish in one period, that is fine. If you have time, you may continue to the next period.
  2. When students are done, they should share their model, describing the concept behind it, the program, the materials used, and how they built their models.

Additional Resources


  • Model Making by Megan Werner
  • Eames House by James Steele
  • Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Century by Pat Kirkham
  • Love Earth: 100 Eco Ideas + 100 Eco Designs edited by Victorian Workshop, LTD

Online Sources

For Further Study

This Art lesson can be extended to other subjects or paired with other 10 Homes that Changed America lessons to create the following interdisciplinary connections:

  • English Language Arts: After designing and building a model of their recycled or prefab home, students may write a critical analysis of their or their classmates’ designs.
  • Mathematics: Using the measurements of their model homes, students may calculate the area and volume of their model home.
  • Science: Students may research the environmental impacts of new construction, including production, materials consumption, and transportation, as opposed to construction using recycled or prefab materials.
  • Social Studies: Students may research and write about where in the world their prefab and recycled homes may be useful, i.e., war zones, or areas that have had natural disasters like earthquakes or floods.