As their civilization develops, let’s think about how your students might design the capital city.
Teach Real Capitals
As always, we don’t want to jump right to “create a capital city”. We’ll get weak ideas. It always helps to teach about what really exists first.
I want to introduce my class to a variety of capital city layouts. I think it’s interesting to present an option like Paris, which has grown organically over thousands of years, versus Washington D.C., which was carefully planned in advance on a grid. I also love talking about the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan – plopped right in the middle of Lake Texcoco (now located under Mexico City).
So, naturally, my class can start to think, will my city be more like Paris or more like DC?
A Combination of Nature and Humans
As I show my students the variety of designs in capital cities, I’m emphasizing a big idea: Cities are a combination of natural features and features created by humans. Paris, for example, is built around the Seine and relies on a whole lot of bridges to connect the city. If the area is hilly or coastal or swampy, that will impact the city’s design and layout.
Then, my class gets to decide what natural features impact their capital city as well as how humans put their own stamp on the city’s design.
Ask About Pros and Cons of the Design
We’d emphasize the pros and cons of their decision. Tenochtitlan fits the warrior image of the Aztecs. It’s highly defensible with very few entrances to guard and water surrounding it. I wouldn’t want to attach Tenochtitlan! But, it’s also easy to cut off. And one can imagine traffic jams trying to get in and out of the city. Any choice will have positives and negatives.
And, of course, in the end, everyone gets to map out their city in as much detail as they’d like!