Educator's Guide: Social Studies: Design-a-Fort


Fortifications are the result of adaptations over centuries of use. When military technology changed, such as the invention of the cannon, fortifications adapted. During the Civil War military technology changed drastically. Shell guns and rifled cannon made brick fortifications obsolete. Vicksburg's earthwork structures represents the fortifications which were used until World War 1.


Make cards from master provided. Divide the cards into 5 groups of 4 cards each. Pass one complete set of cards to group of students. There may be 5 groups, with four to six students in each group. If the class is larger make additional sets of cards. Have the students design a fortification from the cards. Each group should create a drawing or model of their structure. Have each group report to the class about their "fort" and how they think it could survive the type of attack on the card. Older students can challenge each other by one side designing a fort, the other, designing ways to destroy the fort. The purpose cards could be used to set up the opposing forces scenario.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What advantages did earthworks have over brick, concrete or timber?
  2. What major military technological changes occurred during World War I that caused the end of trench warfare?

Classroom Activity:

  • Art
  • Engineering
  • Social Studies


  • 3- 12


Younger students will be able to classify fortifications by shapes. Older students will be able to describe fortification adaptations and how these adaptations worked in differing geographic areas.


Five cards from the masters provided. Art materials and paper.

Note: shape and materials are the only cards needed for younger students.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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