Miniature Community Helps to Raise the Creativity of Children


The streets are laid out in a grid pattern, with miniature cars, traffic signs and odd-shaped structures. The miniature city is both whimsical and realistic. Where else can you find the facade of the Kremlin near the White House? Up a miniature block is Dickens Street, where Ebenezer Scrooge's London house is next to Madame De-Farge's Paris cafe.

There is also a street with religious buildings; a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a Mayan temple. There is a planetarium and a newspaper office and a beauty shop. And the speed limit is a strictly enforced 1 m.p.h.

What is this place?

Its formal name is an acronym, LARC, for Learning Activities to Raise Creativity.

For the past two years, the kid-sized world of LARC was being planned and built in Jack Murphy's classroom at Long Beach, N.Y., Middle School. Murphy, who splits his duties, teaching industrial arts as well as more advanced art and design projects for the school's brighter students, said the project's genesis was a study unit about how communities are organized.

"We began with concepts, but then quickly were translated into models that the students were designing and constructing," Murphy said. Eventually, the students, who began creating a model-sized mythical community, suggested that they translate their ideas into something larger and more permanent. The town began taking shape first on a plywood base in a classroom; then on poured concrete outside.

Murphy needed help from the school district, which approved the project and then kicked in $5,000 to pay for building materials. He said that nearly 250 students have participated in the planning and construction of the mini-village and its scale model, which is 3/8ths the size of the village.

LARC is situated on school property between the district's Middle School and the Lido Beach Elementary School. The students in the Middle School, seventh- and eighth-graders, are responsible for supervising the village, while children ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to second grade are allowed to use the village as a classroom setting.

Plans call for the use of 25 battery-powered miniature vehicles as part of a traffic safety program.

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