A cowboy rides into a ghost town and decides that it needs to be rebuilt. Students will select the necessary things that a town needs in order for it to function and grow.




  • Identify 10 different types of services that are necessary to have in every community.
  • Have an understanding of the basic public goods and services vs. private goods and services found in a community.
  • Identify the differences between a want and a need.


Students will learn about some of the services that people need to have in a community. They will become aware of the difference between wants and needs as well as the goods and services that are found in a community setting. They will discuss taxes and how tax money is used to improve the community.


  • Direct your students to the web site of your city. Help them find links to different programs and facilities that are found in your community.
  • Have the students work in groups to list programs and facilities, or assign them to do the listing as a take-home project or parent project. 
  • Invite the major or another city leader to visit you classroom and discuss with the students how the community grew into the town it is today. 
  • Take digital photographs of different buildings found in town, and have the students make a poster, billboard, or an advertisement explaining all the positive things that the community has to offer new families moving into town.
  • Develop a travel brochure highlighting some of the interesting sites, businesses and opportunities available in your community.
  • Interactive Activity:  This interactive quiz helps students understand what is important when building a community.
    Interactive Quiz


Have a class discussion on what businesses would need to be present in a community, this will be beneficial for students who are auditory learners. Listing these businesses on the board will help visual learners understand what services would be needed to make a community a safe and a pleasant place in which to live. In your discussion talk about public goods and services like schools and police stations. Explain to the class how these services are provided to communities by the government. Then talk to the class about private goods and services, sold in places like toy stores, grocery stores, clothing stores, or law offices. The businesses that sell these goods and services are not owned by the government; they are usually owned by people in your community.

Arrange for a mayor or a city council member to visit your classroom. On the day of the visit, break the class up into groups of 3 or 4 and have them interview the visitor. Each group could take turns asking that leader different questions. Before they interview the leader, have the students, working in their groups, write out the questions that they are going to ask. Have the groups ask questions that focus on the types of services that are necessary to have in every community. Review the questions with each group prior to the arrival of the visitor. After the interviews, have each group write a report or give an oral presentation about what the students learned from their interviews.

Then have the students pretend to be reporters. They should give a news briefing on the ghost town that has come back to life, explaining all the different types of businesses that are returning and the people that are moving back to the once deserted area.


The students will have the layout of a ghost town with its main street. They will need to select six out of the eight buildings that they feel would be absolutely necessary in order for a town to survive.  

The students will click and drag any of these services into the town. These include a police station, clothing store, movie theater, fire station, hospital, school, bank, arcade, toy store, doctors office, gas station, clothing store, car dealership, music store, post office, and an electric plant.

Click here for this activity.

The students would then need to state either orally or in written form why these buildings were selected.


Students will draw a map and include 10 businesses or service agencies that would be necessary to have in a community. After drawing and labeling the community, they should explain why each business or agency was selected and tell, for each one, whether it produces a good or a service for the community.  

Services needed to ensure growth in a community might include a water-treatment plant, a police station, a fire station, an electrical plant, a gas company, grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware or lumber stores, hospitals, doctor's offices, schools, banks, a post office, restaurants, car dealerships, and dentists.


  1. For a parent activity, the students could go out and take photographs of important community buildings and put together a class mural of the town. Invite guests and city officials into the classroom and have the students give a report about the history of each building/service. For each building or service, the reports should tell when it came to the city and what it does for the community.
  2. At the end of the lesson, the students select a business and give a report about the history of each building/service, explaining when it came to the city and what it does for the community. 
  3. The students might interview the heads of various municipal departments, or invite them into the classroom.


  • “I teach 4th grade and will use this great idea as a writing activity. It will be interesting to discover what students believe are necessary buildings and services for a town.”

    Brenda T., Vinton, VA   POSTED ON October 21, 2008

  • “How about replacing the gas stations with public transportation? It is time to think green and conserve. If you don't have a car dealer, where are people going to buy a car to put fuel in?”

    Linda T., Seoul, South Korea   POSTED ON November 11, 2008

  • “I was very surprised that a school was not considered essential. Also, could the car dealership have been a bicycle shop? I wish there were more to this activity. I found it too simplistic. My second graders were beyond this in their thinking.”

    Lauri S., Arlington, VA   POSTED ON May 29, 2009

  • “To extend this further add in drawing up business plans for each entity. In today's world financial education is important. To Arlington - a school suggested as were the word "might be" not a comprehensive list to be sure. I would add some cultural items as well. Such as museum (of any kind) performing arts center etc - also parks.”

    kathryn m, salinas, CA   POSTED ON September 16, 2009

  • Review from

    Student/Teacher Friendly

    “This lesson could be used for the development of a region. I used it, however, when talking about mining towns becoming "Ghost Towns". Students discussed what they thought would be important in a town to make people want to live there. They debated wants versus needs and goods versus services. Students loved creating a town and putting in the services that the town needed and then discussing what goods come from those services. They had difficulty understanding the concept of public versus private goods, but were able to understand public and private services. I fit this lesson into two 45 minute sessions, but did not include the extras such as the computer part or inviting speakers to the classroom. ”

    Jodi F   POSTED ON January 26, 2010

  • Review from

    Excellent Lesson

    “Cowboy Bob Builds a Community – The idea of rebuilding a ghost town grabbed the attention of the students immediately. This lesson allowed students to work independently and with small groups. Their creative minds came together as they discussed all the necessary businesses needed in a successful community. The students were very interested in discussing the questions about types of businesses in our area. They also used their reasoning skills while we created a chart listing businesses or service agencies that are established for the good of the public and businesses that provide goods or services only to people who pay for them. The chart also helped them distinguish which of the businesses or agencies are paid for by taxes and which ones depend on money from customers who pay for the goods and services. The chart we created was very helpful for the students as they worked on the questions in the Process section of the lesson. Projecting the questions from the Process section for all students to read was necessary. The Assessment Activity and Extension Activity were great. I assigned groups to discuss questions about businesses in a successful community and to design it. They worked together to decide which businesses were the most important. Then, I evaluated them individually by assigning each student to create their own community and label the types of businesses using our chart we created together at the beginning of the lesson. I highly recommend this lesson for students and teachers. It was well written and engaged the learners throughout all of the activities. ”

    Angela M   POSTED ON May 9, 2010

  • Review from

    Interesting for Kids!

    “I like that this lesson can be made into a history lesson as well as an economic lesson. It is interesting to see what students think is necessary to keep a town running. I also like the idea of bringing in a mayor or someone of importance in the city, and having the students interview them, as this can lead to a government discussion as well. Very adaptable lesson. ”

    brandi s   POSTED ON September 24, 2013

Add a Review