Grade 3 – Shelters

For the third grade shelters block, I used the “Elements from Grade 3” from Eugene Schwartz, and a little bit of Live Ed.

wikiup 3rd grader     wikiup mom
Third grader’s drawing on the left, mom’s on the right.

For the past few years, we have made several shelters. During my daughter’s third grade year we built a wiki-up with some friends. First we cut down young willow trees around my friend’s lake (she was glad to thin them out, as they drink a lot of water). Then the children cut the branches from the trunks to make nice poles. We dug holes in a circle and buried the poles in the earth, then we bent the tops of the poles together and tied them up at the top. We added support poles around the dome shape, and covered it with some brush, but mostly left it open. We had a magical soup dinner inside our wiki-up, under the stars, that will always be remembered. Unfortunately, I cannot find a single picture of that wiki-up. I could go and take a picture of it today, but it is several years old, and now it looks like ancient ruins… we can see why these structures had to be rebuilt often!

waldorf nature center shelter 

The above shelter is a little difficult to see, but it is a survival shelter. Last year during our nature program on Fridays, we did activities related to wilderness ‘survival’. We made a solar water still, learned to make fire, how to find food, and create shelter. In Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children, he talks about trying (and failing) to make a shelter for himself as a youth. His mentor showed him how the squirrels make their shelter, and it is said that the best survival shelter can be made in the same way. It is basically a ridge pole, with supporting poles on either side, and a LOT of leaves piled on top to keep it warm and dry.

Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children



The beautiful shelter above was made by my children and their friends over the course of a few hours. They were inspired by the survival shelter, and wanted to make one that was larger. This one has more features… a walkway, seating areas, and little storage nooks carved into the sandstone.


This one isn’t exactly a third grade shelter, but a fairy garden that we made long ago. Perhaps we may call it a shelter for little imaginations to thrive and grow. The fairies loved to leave little gifts of flowers and ribbons here. Sigh.

So, that is a lot of shelter building… on to the book work:

07 tipis

First up was the tipi. We talked about how the Indians used tipis, and I told a myth called How Tipi got its Shape. I found this story a several years ago at a site called, but the site is no longer hosted, and I cannot locate another source for this lovely story. If anyone knows of the source, I would be grateful if you would let me know.

We also read the picture book Houses of hide and earth.

08 adobe

We talked about the pueblo, and we enjoyed drawing these houses. We checked out Houses of adobe from the library and read it for our lessons. I like this series for the shelter block. The books are interesting, informative, and the pictures are rich. Plus, they are just the right length to be read in one or two main lessons. I think the picture and writing above came from Live Education.

09 igloo

The drawing inspiration and the poem above was from Eugene Schwartz’s Elements of Grade Three. For the study of the igloo, we started by reading a few bits of “Houses of snow, skin and bones”, and looking at the pictures.

Houses of snow, skin and bones

Then we began reading The Igloo by Charlotte and David Yue. The books in this series are much longer… it probably took us 4 or 5 days to read this book. My son was absolutely enthralled by the detailed description of Eskimo life. However, I decided to skip the last chapter, as it ends with a description of how the Eskimos lives changed when the Europeans arrived. I believe it is best to avoid dwelling on these concepts with young children. There will be plenty of time for the sad truth of this terrible time in the history of the Americas. Also, I think that all too often when we study the natives, we seem to begin with the European impact, when in fact, there is so much more of the history of these peoples that occurred long before the Europeans knew of this beautiful place.

The Igloo


11 sod houses

Next we moved from the study of native shelters to the homes of the early pioneers. We began with sod houses, reading from two sources:

On the Banks of Plum Creek (Little House)

We read a chapter or two of On the Banks of Plum Creek, in which Laura describes the sod house. We read the book in its entirety sometime in the months before, so we were just revisiting Laura’s house. But it seems like this would be a nice book for nighttime reading during this block.


Sod Houses on the Great Plains

Sod Houses on the Great Plains is a simple picture book with just a few lines of text on each page, but the author describes how and why sod houses were built. He also describes the problems with a sod house: insects, mice, snakes, and leaks! However, they were relatively safe from the dangerous prairie fires.

12 log houses

For our study of log cabins, we are fortunate enough (as probably many Americans are) to have historical log cabins nearby. We went for a visit and looked at the hand-hewn logs. When my daughter was in third grade, we went for a walk along a creek and identified the local trees that were often used for these early cabins. She made crayon rubbings of the leaves for her main lesson book.


10 stilt houses

I never found any great books for stilt houses, but I really wanted to draw one! So, I did some research online and we talked about why people would want to build a house on stilts, where they are built, how it is done, and what it would be like to live in one.

13 modern houses

Talking about building a modern house was fun, but I wish I would have had an opportunity for my son to go to a real building site. Maybe someday. So we looked at a couple of picture books about building a house, and we looked around our house. Where is the foundation? What did the house look like before it had drywall and bricks? Where is the plumbing? “DAD! Where is the plumbing”? Electricity?

The drawing was a challenge. Well, most drawings are a challenge for my son, since he is usually quite resistant to the idea. This was particularly difficult because of the perspective. Perspective drawing is not taught in the Waldorf curriculum until the seventh grade, so after a false start, I drew the basic shape of the foundation and wall with a lemon yellow crayon, and he finished the picture. The digger was fun… he particularly enjoyed pointing out inaccuracies in my digger. The drawing was from Eugene Schwartz’s third grade (again).

14 deck building

This picture is a little difficult to see, but I allowed my son to take a couple of days “off’” from school to help Daddy build a new deck. We counted it towards house building and measurement studies. The song on the page is from the wonderful book by Diane Ingraham Barnes called Music Through the Grades.

Wonderful Houses Around the World

I wanted a book to help us learn more about Yurts, but I could not find any in our local libraries, so I bought a book called Wonderful Houses Around the World. It is a fun book, with photographs of the outside of the homes, and fabulously detailed drawings of the interiors. Both of my children enjoyed the book, but we had done a lot of drawing of many different types of homes, so we did not draw any of the homes from this book. However, it was a good opportunity to see modern homes around that world that are so very different than our own.

Here are some of my shelter drawings:

mom's tipi   mom's adobe house

mom's stilt house   mom's sod house

mom's log house   mom's modern house


My son enjoyed The Igloo so much, that he wanted to hear more about native shelters even after the block was finished. So, we read the rest of the series. We were still reading The Pueblo well into summer vacation!

Wigwam and the Longhouse

The Pueblo

The Tipi

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5 Responses to Grade 3 – Shelters

  1. Teri, Thank you once again for posting your 3rd grade work. We will start our first shelters block at the end of November and although I have most of my planning done this has been a great help. Thanks for the recommendation of the books by the Yues – turns out my local library has a copy of The Tipi, so I will check it out. As always, your main lesson books are beautiful.


  2. Mama Goose says:

    Oh thanks so much! We are in the midst of our shelters block, and am looking for some inspiration. I wanted to do yurts next, but am having trouble finding materials. I like some of the books you posted, and really like those books by shemie too. I ordered a few. Your drawings are beautiful! thanks for sharing.

  3. This is great! Can you tell me how long you took to do this whole block?

  4. Mama Goose says:

    Thanks for sharing your resources. I have some of those books, but was glad to see some of the titles I had not known of. Beautiful artwork!

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