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Heritage: Make a model of a typical Utah Settlement.

Time Frame

3 class periods of 45 minutes each

Group Size

Small Groups


Barry Graff


Using a variety of materials, make a model of a typical Utah settlement, including street and block layouts, houses, businesses, farms, churches, etc.


18 in. x 18 in. piece of stiff cardboard, plywood, masonite, etc. Salt Dough (2 tbs alum, 2 tbs oil, 1 c salt, 4 c flour, 2 c cold water) Balsa wood or oak tag for buildings, fences, etc. Paint (tempera or tole paint) Glue

Background for Teachers

Brigham Young had a standard layout for the settlements that were established in the west. It was a two coordinate system, with a main street running east and west intersected with a main street running north and south. These two streets divided the community into 4 quadrants. All streets ran parallel north/south or east/west, creating a grid. Using the grid, any address could be found using just two coordinates: any combination of south and east, south and west, north and east, and north and west.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will become familiar with the layout of a typical early Utah settlement.

Instructional Procedures


  • Utah Pioneers - Classroom Activities
    This link includes a set of questions, themes, and lesson plans to guide students and teachers with their research into the Pioneers coming to Utah by wagon train and handcart.

Students will need a set of Utah city/community maps (large and small). Students need to spend time looking at the layouts of the various cities to find similarities in layouts and street names. Compare and contrast various city layouts. Discuss the geographic differences that may have effected the layout. What other differences are neccessitated due to physical features. What other observations can you predict that might have caused variations in laying out a city.

Go see essential questions.

Using maps of Utah communities, look at the grid pattern layout of typical Utah settlements. Point out the division of the settlement into four sectors: north, south, east and west. Point out the intersection of north-south running roads with east-west running roads. Explain that roads were generally straight and wide, to allow wagons to turn around. Look at the layout of city blocks; some devoted to homes, some to business, some to agriculture. Brainstorm the needs of a typical pioneer settlement (homes, farms, church, blacksmith, general store, etc.). Brainstorm what kinds of things would be added to the settlement as it grew in population and changed over time.

Divide students into groups of four. Provide each group with the materials listed above. Each group should mix a batch of salt dough and spread on the base surface. While the dough is wet, carefully smooth the surface and divide the 'city' into blocks by making a grid system of wide straight roads, leaving room for buildings or farms to be placed in the blocks later.

After the salt dough is dry, paint roads, grass, etc. Have students construct houses, stables, fences, businesses, barns, etc. out of cardboard or balsa wood and place in the city blocks. Have students group the buildings by zones: houses, businesses and farms. Try not to mix them up in a hodge-podge style. Color or paint details to buildings and homes. Students may bring in any other item to add as much detail as desired. Name each street and assign specific locations on the model an address based upon the coordinate system.


As the course of study moves to railroads, stagecoaches, pony express, telegraphs, etc., have students enlarge and add to their settlements by putting in train stations, telegraph stations, etc. The city can be changed as far into the future as desired.

Created: 03/08/1997
Updated: 02/03/2018