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Urban Planning, City Design #5: Underwater Cities

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students are challenged to think about cities of the future.   What might they look like?  How would they be different from today’s cities?  Using a current events article, kids will complete a short reading, then think about what an underwater city might look like and what some of the obstacles in planning an underwater city might be.  This is the final lesson in the Urban Planning and City Design unit and will force the kids to expand their thinking.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To use an understanding of city planning and apply that in the context of an underwater city.   (AASL  2, “Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.)  (Key Concept: Perspective.)

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Using what they have learned about city planning, students will design part of an underwater city and identify three problems that might arise if an underwater city were on the drawing board.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask students to summarize some of the key findings from their unit on city planning.  What do great cities have in common?  What do city planners try to avoid?  What are some of the biggest challenges in city planning?

Explain that today the students will be asked to think about city planning from a new perspective.  Instead of planning a city on land, they will be asked to think about how they might plan an underwater city!

Tell the students that you will read a short article together, then they will be asked to work in small groups on planning an underwater city.

2. Main:

Distribute copies of “Designers plan underwater cities,” from The Day Explorer.  Read through the article together.  Be sure to point out the two perspectives in the article: Against living underwater, and for living underwater.  Kids often have a hard time determining whether a source is balanced or biased.  The Day Explorer does an excellent job of addressing two sides of an issue, so take advantage of this and make sure that students understand that the article is balanced.  Use the glossary when needed.

After students read the article, ask them whether they would like to live underwater?  For today, ask the students to explore that idea.  Ask them what it  would be like for a person living in an underwater city.  Note of a few of their ideas on a flip chart or whiteboard.

Pass out the student assignment.  Read the learning objective together.  Explain that they need to draw a picture of what an underwater city might look like.  They don’t need to draw the entire city, but they could draw one element of a city.  For example, what would an underwater school, home, church (mosque, temple), or shopping area look like?

Point out that each student needs to list three concerns or obstacles, that would have to be overcome in planning an underwater city.

3. Conclusion:

Bring the children back together and ask a few to share their work.   If there is time, you may wish to show them the website of the world’s only underwater hotel, the Jules Lodge in the Florida Keys, USA.  (Careful, not designed specifically for children.)  Or, you may want to show them NASA’s Aquarius Undersea Lab to emphasize that a few people are living and working underwater.

Collect the assignments and, if there is space and time, make a display of their work.

  1. Copies of “Designers plan underwater cities,” from The Day Explorer (attached).
  2. Copies of the student assignment for this lesson (attached).
  3. More background information from the BBC: “Will we ever . . . . live in underwater cities?”  http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130930-can-we-build-underwater-cities
  4. Link to the Jules Undersea Lodge: http://www.jul.com/Jules.html
  5. Link to NASA’s Undersea lab: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NEEMO/gallery/neemo16_aquarius.html

If your kids are excited and you want to get crazy (and if time allows), introduce them to “Mermaid Melissa,” and how one woman’s passion for the sea has turned into a very interesting career!  http://www.mermaidmelissa.com/about/

I’ve placed this lesson near the end of the Unit of Inquiry on Urban Planning, but it could also work in a Unit of Inquiry on Ecosystems or Architecture.

Recommended books for this lesson:


Key Terms:

City Planning, Future Cities, Underwater Habitats, Extreme Environments

Designers plan underwater cities

Student Assignment, Underwater Cities