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fantastic factory

Pop-up city of the future

We all have ideas for our perfect city but they can be hard to explain. Let's bring those ideas together and create a public-friendly interface to exhibit them. A craft-it-yourself workshop to explore our future, the cities we will live in, our professions or means of transport. Children use their imagination and creativity to represent the world they would like to live in. The activity introduces topics like civil engineering, urban and natural ecosystems, community rules.


Material needed



Learning objectives


Thick paper (if possible coloured one), coloured pencils, glue sticks, scissors

6-12 years old, in the classroom or at home

90 min.

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Untitled (600 × 100px) (39).png

Pedagogical interest 

Introducing to the game idea: exploring cities and lifestyles of the future. Considering climate change, we have to think about how lifestyles need to evolve to adapt to the new constraints: heat or flood, water restrictions, farming... Apart from climate change, it is also a question of reflecting on changes in professions, lifestyles, transport, social trends, or even culture. This game is about creating future cities' paper models and discussing why and how they could appear. To be more engaging and fun, the participants will have to imagine the cities of a rather distant future. Will some of us be living underwater, in the air, underground? Children learn to express ideas and work in a team, develop critical thinking and enhance their presentation and communication skills.


Understanding urban development and perspectives: Nowadays, almost 75% of European citizens and more than 50% of world citizens live in cities. By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world will live in urban areas. If we take a look at the tangible ecological impact, those cities are responsible for 40 to 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions and use 2/3 of the world's energy. Knowing this, it is urgent to think about alternatives for our urban lifestyles. If a lot more people are expected to move to cities, we should think about their accommodation with less footprint.


There is plenty of ideas and solutions to these challenges, so let's explore some of them. To imagine better perspectives for our cities, we need to think about several aspects: Carbone reduction, circular economy, resilience, governance, culture and open-mindedness, inclusion and sharing...


Choosing your future city and lifestyle (civil engineering, urban transport, energy efficiency): Various civil engineering and urban transport solutions have a direct impact on the ecological transition of a city. Develop green places by planting trees, reduce gas emissions by reorganizing transport, create kitchen gardens or reduce food and electricity waste. What would your home look like in this kind of city?


What kind of job will be needed?: What would be necessary jobs to help cities become pleasant and sustainable places? Should we find more gardeners, and teachers, The activity develops the children's awareness of society, transport management and the employment world.


What would be your dream transport?: In the city you will live in, will you go to work by bicycle, electric scooter, or just walking? What would your dream city be like? The pop-up game brings children to reflect on healthy and sustainable behaviour and reducing ecological footprint.

Game rules

Game narrative: Attention please, take off imminently, see you in 2050!

For the participants, it is about projecting an imaginary city, metamorphosed following energy, environmental, and demographic transformations ... Four universes are then explored by the participants and staged in the form of interactive pop-ups. Underwater, in the air, underground and in the trees. The different Pop-ups can be assembled in Leporello (accordion book). This is an opportunity for these budding town planners to discuss climate and environmental issues in a fun and creative way.


Game rules:


Presentation: Think about the future evolution of the world with regards to cities, the climate in particular.


Level 1: Imagine a city that corresponds to these new ecological and economic challenges. Create a building model with paper, that can easily be shown and exhibited. Present the prototype with arguments, names, and ideas.


Level 2: Think about new professions, transports, and ways of life that could appear. Represent it with paper and place it into the previous city.


Role of the teacher and game organisation: In the first part of the workshop, the teacher helps children to express their ideas and provides references.

In the second part, the teacher will be the technician. They first explain how tools work and then supervise the creation.

In the end, teachers may act as politicians who need to be convinced by children of the necessity of their suggested solutions using sound arguments.


Round 1

First, the teacher shows to the kids some inspiring projects about future cities. Then, children are asked to express ideas of how they would like or dislike to live: Flying cars, vertical farms, smart maps...

In small groups or individually, they will throw the "localisation dice" which determines the condition and place of the city they would need to develop (underwater, underground, in the air, in a forest). As a next step, they imagine a sustainable city in this particular place. They draw it, cut it out, and build a model using pop-up techniques. For half an hour they create with the adults/teachers a 3 dimension cityscape.

Once all teams are ready with their pop-ups, they are asked to describe their ideas within a few sentences and present their cities to their teacher and classmates, explaining their choices and wishes.

Round 2

Children now throw the "action dice" which will determine a project area they will need to explore. It can be thinking about new professions that will be needed, new foods, transport, buildings, energy sources, etc...

They must represent it with a paper sculpture that will be placed in their popup city to illustrate their idea.

As in round 1, they should present their ideas to the rest of the class with clear and effective arguments.

Soundtrack your city

Have you ever thought of how a city sounds? What can you hear from the window of your classroom: people chatting, cars, birds humming?

What will be the perfect soundtracks for your city? Try to record it using a smartphone. Look for a place near the classroom where you like the soundscape. Your friends might help you in making the different noises you imagine in your city (eg: dogs barking, planes passing by, stadium crowd...)

Then when recorded, hide a speaker beneath the pop-up and play the sound as you open the pop-up card.

Should you wish to stay unplugged, "play" your desired sounds by imitating them orally.

submit your work

Pop-up city of the future

Feel free to share you work with the unplugged partners and even with the European teacher's community! This will enable us to follow your achievements and reward you with game materials and other surprises to thank you for your participation in raising children's critical thinking! You rock!

Upload pictures of your creations

Going further

Topic 1 - Urban and sustainable development

Here are some links to go further into numbers, statistics and global situation: 

To further practice sustainable development you may wish to refer to other Unplugged quests, e.g. The Perfect City, Plastic Continent, Farm in the City, Ecosystem in a Jar, etc.

Topic 2 - Futuristic cities

You can find ideas and inspirations on cities of the future here:

Topic 3 - Stimulating creativity

Round 3 can be made more interactive by the use of a touchboard. This is a small component that triggers sounds when something conductor is touched. You can then record specific explanations for parts of your city and play them when touching it on the pop-up. Tutorials over touchboards and creative pop-ups:

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