Education:Skyscrapers - Buildings that Touch the Sky



Grades 7-12/Social Studies/US & World History

Time Required for completed lesson

Dependent on the amount of lesson plan materials used/1 – 5 periods of 45 minute length



Common Core State Standards

R.H.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, video or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

R.H.9-10.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

R.H.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured including how key sentences, paragraphs and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

Materials Required

White board or smart board, readings, maps,

Power Point presentation with pictures of buildings

Anticipatory Set

Students will be divided into groups.

Each group will be challenged to build the tallest skyscraper, which will withstand the breeze from a fan.

Students will use toothpicks, gumdrops, licorice and other candy to build the skyscraper.

Students will report back about their buildings’ strength and what they learned from this experience.


Students will debrief to determine why their skyscraper stood or did not stand.

Students will be asked to determine what is needed for a skyscraper to be built and why.

Class will be divided into groups and each group will be given a reading. Using the carousel, gallery walk or another method they will share information.

Class discussion of factors needed to build today. Why do people live in high rise building? What is the need?

Why are skyscrapers used as a measure of wealth and power today?

Students will continue to read about skyscrapers to understand the interdependence of many inventions and the fields of study which allowed for the evolution of the modern skyscraper.

Groups can report about the elevator, air conditioning, improvements in glass etc. and how these work.

A study of the World Trade Center, its history and changes being made to the new structure can also be included.


1. Student made collage of the skyscraper and its history, including a timeline.

2. Essay: Why are the tallest skyscrapers being constructed in Asia today?

3. Discuss improvements you believe should constitute skyscraper construction today.


Collaboration with science teachers or a pre engineering program would enhance this topic.

Students should understand the need for engineering knowledge to make this possible.

Blue prints can be read and the need for mathematical skills explained in order to translate plans to reality.

These plans are computer generated and should lead to a discussion of computer technology and construction in the modern age.


Readings are offered at various reading levels.

The collage can be adequately accomplished by students who are troubled by written exercises.

The integration piece is offered for higher level thinking skills.


1. Students will rebuild their skyscrapers with materials of their own choosing. These skyscrapers will be tested in the same fashion as those constructed initially.

2. Students will be asked to create an alternative to the skyscraper which would accommodate large numbers of residents/offices, e.g., underground housing, individual small pods, etc.



Skyscrapers: The New Millennium by John Zukowsky, Prestel Publishers, May 2000

Skyscrapers by Judith Dupre, Black Dog and Lowenthal Publishers, 1996

Websites (Building Big)




Activities for Picture Timeline

Questions for Bessemer Process

Questions for Henry Bessemer

Questions for History of Elevator 1

Questions for History of Skyscrapers III

Questions for Importance of Steel

Questions for Skyscrapers


Timeline for the Importance of Steel

Guided notes for skyscraper presentation

Questions for the Great Chicago Fire