I had the same type of class, so for about four weeks (coincided with Veterans
Day) we created a series of projects for a Veterans Administration complex.
Students first had to create front and side elevations, then layouts for the
complex. We brainstormed about what the building had to do--it had to have
accessibility on all levels, it had to have specific areas for different types
of service. I also asked that they attach some sort of memorial plaza/garden in
memory of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. We studied Maya Lin's work as our
history/aesthetics component. Created two point drawings next, and then created
the actual buildings using those elevation drawings for planning (if the drawing
showed a five inch long by three inch high buildiing, the created a rectangular
prism with those proportions). They had to create templates first, to get the
proportions right, using a really cheap paper. They then used the templates and
a much heavier stock to assemble the buildings.
This took about five weeks with a class that resembles your class, Donalynn.
They stayed on task. If you wanted, you could take the same concept and apply
to all sorts of buildings.