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Centennial: Once Upon A Time...Buildings Tell A Story


by Mari Domanski. Changes in buildings reflect the changes of their setting.


  • Dictionary of Architectural Terms from Utah Heritage Foundation.
  • Teacher supplied pictures of local buildings, or videos of main street.

Background for Teachers

The built environment can be used to extend the practice of visual literacy. Villages, towns, and cities can be a historical reference to trace the changes and progress of the community. Historical changes of our past can be used as a springboard to increase an appreciation of the built environment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Students will identify basic architectural features of buildings in their community.
  • Students will identify the changes in local buildings.

Instructional Procedures


See preface material for the Utah Centennial Lesson Plans book.

Ask students to draw a sketch of a local building from memory. Compare and display student sketches.

Discuss the elements that all the buildings have in common which were present in the drawings. Which elements are different or missing? Revisit and observe the buildings that were sketched to add elements that may have been missed.

Discuss why buildings look different. Consider elements of use, time, available materials, etc.

Identify architectural elements which are most commonly found in the buildings, then identify these same elements in the students' sketches. Identify architectural elements found in your local community. Use the Utah Heritage Foundation Dictionary of Architectural Terms as a reference.

Using sketches, pictures or video, group the buildings together in a variety of ways. Possible groupings may include use, location, age, architectural style, etc.

Date the buildings from the pictures or the video. An architect, historian, or long time resident as a guest speaker is lovely for this activity.

Decide which building is most representative of the community. Define why it best represents the community. Be prepared to defend your choice.


Students will research which buildings are registered as national or state historical sites. Using these as a base, prepare a presentation or display to inform your community of the other historical connections you have discovered.

Lobby the community by petition to have another local building placed on the national or state historic register.

Create community support for 'thank a building day' where local buildings are cleaned up and appreciated for what they have represented to the community.

Create books for younger children to know the history of the local buildings.

Using a sample of the most intriguing buildings of the community illustrate the alterations that may take place in the next 100 years. Construct an ideal main street using selected buildings of the community in their architectural best.

Created: 02/13/1997
Updated: 02/05/2018