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Sense of Belonging: Homes and Communities #3: The Quiet Place and Cardboard Challenge

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children learn about a little girl who, thanks to her Dad’s new job, had to leave her family home, extended family, and friends.  Based on a true story, Sarah Stewart and David Small lead the reader to insights about creating your own “sense of belonging” in a new place.  This is not a story of loss, but of resiliency.  This lesson is extended by giving kids simple materials and letting them create, as the main character did, a familiar and comforting space for reflection and growth.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To understand that a “sense of belonging” can be created in unfamiliar environments and to use simple materials to create a symbol of home.  (AASL 4.1.3, “Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.”)

Suggested Time:

45-55 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will be able to retell The Quiet Place by Sarah Steward and David Small, commenting specifically on what Isabel did to create a sense of belonging in her new home.  Also, children will use simple craft materials to create a small symbol of home they can share with their classmates.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the children that the little pirate wanted to trade his ship for a home on land.  And Chris Van Dusen showed us how imagination can lead to lots of exciting ideas about our dream homes.  Today, we look at the concept of home and belonging through a different lens.  Our story is the tale of a young girl named Isabel and her family’s journey to a new, unfamiliar home.  As we read, think about:

  • How Isabel might have felt when she had to say “goodbye” to her aunt
  • How it might have felt to have to learn a new language
  • What it would be like to attend a school where no one speaks your language
  • What it could feel like to see snow, or play in snow for the first time
  • How you might miss the sights, sounds, and smells of your old home far away
  • What Isabel did to help herself adjust, learn a new language, and make friends

2. Main:

Teach The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart and David Small.  Check for understanding as you go.  Pay special attention to the front papers.  David Small starts the story before the text and the very first illustration is crucial to setting the tone.  Point out Small’s use of light – we are drawn to the women in the house hugging their last goodbye as the car is loaded. Ask the children how this illustration makes them feel.

Follow-up with questions such as:

  • How did Isabel respond to her new challenges?
  • What did she have to overcome to feel good in her new home?
  • How did her family help her?
  • Why do you think she started building the “Quiet Place”?
  • In the beginning, she just had a box, but by the end of the story she had an entire village. Why do you think she worked so hard on her project?
  • What do you think her village reminded her of?
  • What do you do to remind yourself of your home when you are far away?

Explain that to extend the story, the children will have the chance to create a mini “Quiet Place.”  Make sure that each child has access to a small box (BandAid size and larger, but probably no larger than a cereal box.)  Let the kids work on their small boxes to create little homes, or images of homes, that remind them of their home country.

If you need or wish to add a writing extension, simply have each child write a few sentences about how they made their “Quiet Place,” what it represents, what they think about when they look at it.  (Key Concept:  Reflection.)

The “Quiet Places” can be put together to create a village much like the one Isabel created, only in miniature.

3. Conclusion:

As a wrap-up, let the kids share their work with one another.  They should make sure that their name and class is on their work, and then tidy up.  Help them take their “Quiet Places” back to class to show their teacher.  Be sure to capture some of their work for a digital portfolio or project journal.

  1. The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart and David Small
  2. A small box for each child. You may assign the children to bring a small box ahead of time so that they are ready on the day of the lesson.
  3. Colored paper
  4. Markers, pens, crayons
  5. Glue
  6. Scissors
  7. Tape
  8. Stapler
  9. Caine’s Arcade website: http://cainesarcade.com/thefoundation/
  10. Imagination.org website: http://imagination.org/

You may be familiar with the story of Caine’s Arcade.  If not, please acquaint yourself with Caine Monroy and the filmmaker who highlighted Caine’s creativity in a sensational video in 2012.  Imagination.org, a movement which grew out of Caine’s Arcade and the world’s fascination with this little boy’s accomplishments, now works to support creativity and entrepreneurship in children across the world.

Like the character of Isabel in Stewart and Small’s book, your school can take part in a global “Cardboard Challenge.”  Or, you can simply organize your own day of play and creativity.  I’ve written this lesson to use small boxes so that the activity fits within a regular library lesson.  However, if you and your kids want to build big, learn about Caine, the work going on at Imagination.org, and organize something much better!

A Cardboard Creativity Day would be the perfect way to launch a maker space for your library or school if you don’t already have one.  This lesson, using Stewart and Small’s text and a cardboard activity extension, could be just the thing to jump-start your maker space efforts.

Recommended books for this lesson:

The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart and David Small

Key Terms:

Belonging, Homes, Immigration, Emigration, Mexico, Indiana, Cardboard, Creativity, Caine’s Arcade, Sarah Stewart, David Small