A Walk on the West Side

By Kathleen Lee, November 15, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Three or four class periods


The objective of this lesson is to provide a necessary bridge between our school and the surrounding community. The lesson provides students with the opportunity to learn about the schools neighborhood of Parkside* by examining the role of the built environment in their community. In addition, the students will develop a sense of pride in their neighborhood, city, and community. These goals will be accomplished using holistically designed, hands-on activities that focus on solving real questions about the current community. Students often learn in isolation and only receive a fragmented learning experience. When students work on solving real community problems they become stakeholders in the community and better students and citizens. The overall goal is for the students to create a community museum with their community partners, through projects from this lesson and others.
*Any school neighborhood can be used in this activity.

National Standards

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Range of Writing: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.


Anchor standards for Language: 

Conventions of Standard English: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.Knowledge of Language: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


  • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics
  • F3        Natural resources
  • F2        Population growth
  • F4        Environmental quality
  • F5        Natural and human-induced hazards
Social Studies
People, Places, and Environments
  • Refine mental maps of locales, regions, and the world that demonstrate understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape
  • Create, interpret, use, and synthesize information from various representations of the earth, such as maps, globes, and photographs
  • Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools such as aerial photographs, satellite images, geographic information systems, map projections, and cartography to generate, manipulate, and interpret information such as atlases, data bases, grid systems, charts, graphs, and maps
  • Calculate distance, scale, area, and density, and distinguish spatial distribution patterns
  • Describe and compare how people create places that reflect culture, human needs, government policy, and current values and ideals as they design and build specialized buildings, neighborhoods, shopping centers, urban centers, industrial parks, and the like
  • Examine, interpret and analyze physical and cultural patterns and their interactions, such as land use, settlement patterns, cultural transmission of customs and ideas, and ecosystem changes
  • Propose, compare, and evaluate alternative policies for the use of land and other resources in communities, regions, nations, and the world
Standard 2. Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs Standard 3 Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual
Language Arts
Writing Standard 4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes


Students will:
  • understand what makes up the physical community
  • read about and construct scale drawings and models
  • learn about the history of infrastructures and how the contributions of science, math, and industry have led to the development of their (infrastructures and) city/community



  • chart for walk (see attachment)
  • pencils
  • clipboards
  • large sheets of paper
  • rulers
  • computers and Internet
  • cameras


Scale-A ratio representing the size of an illustration or reproduction, especially a map or a model, in relation to the object it represents; measurement based on a series of marks laid down at regular intervals and representing numerical value. Physical community-The systems and parts that make up a community, including buildings, environment, infrastructures. Infrastructure-The large-scale public systems, services, and facilities of a country or region that are necessary for economic activity, including power and water supplies, public transportation, telecommunications, roads, and schools.


The Physical Community:
Introduction to Building Scale Models of the Parkside Neighborhood by Looking at Community Infrastructures
Day One In this activity, students will first conduct research on a field trip/walk of their community and then construct scale maps of their neighborhood. The teacher should use the attached chart, or create a chart, to help the students research on the walk. You will need to bring cameras, clip boards, pencils, and paper for note-taking and rubbings of buildings on the walk. Prepare the students in advance for the investigative trip around the neighborhood.
Teacher presentation and motivation:
  • Preview: Have the students respond to the following preview questions in writing: How does a city obtain and design the buildings, utilities, and transportation systems it needs to become a place filled with successful, sustainable, and livable neighborhoods? Where do you think they come from and how and why are they developed and replicated?
  • Discuss the answers to the questions as a class.
  • Explain that you are going to go on a neighborhood walk around the community in order to gather data needed to construct scale models of the community.
  • Using Google Earth, or another website, locate your city and school on the map. Select two students to locate their own homes to add another dimension to the search.
  • Discuss what makes up a community before the trip. Talk about the infrastructure in a community: the things that support community life like roads, utilities, and bridges. Tell students about the classification of buildings; they can be public (a school, community center), commercial (7 Eleven), or residential. The natural environment is self-explanatory, but point out things like streams, and encourage thinking about wildlife.
  • Pass out and explain the chart that will be used to gather information on the walk. Encourage students to use their chart and a pencil to gather rubbings from buildings and the natural environment on their walk. Divide the students into groups of five or six and have them select a recorder, a time keeper, and a reporter. Make sure each group has their chart and a camera for the walk.

*note: The more time allotted for the walk, the better. Allow for at least 45 minutes. You can prepare the students for the project and the walk in one class period and then use the next class period for the walk.

Day Two or Three (depending on the set-up of the initial class and walk)
  • Debrief with the class about the walk. Discuss the students’ charts and answer the following questions as a class: 1.      What types of buildings did you find? 2.      What examples of infrastructure did you see? 3.      What examples of the natural environment did you find? 4.      What did you learn about your community after your walk?
  • Review scale with the students. Have them practice using scale (1/4, ½, and 1) by measuring the classroom and then drawing it to scale. Explain that you cannot draw a 20 foot x 30 foot room on an 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper.
  • Pass out large sheets of paper, pencils, and rulers. Using Google Earth, show students the neighborhood/area they will draw to scale. Point out the area investigated on the neighborhood walk and have them select four square blocks from that area using the screen or the data they collected on their charts. Have them use a ¼ scale to recreate the area. Have them include examples of buildings, infrastructure, and the natural environment where possible.
  • After creating the scale map, students should create a concept map of the same area, including examples of buildings, infrastructure, and the natural environment and showing how each component relates to one another. (Teacher note: You can use Inspiration for this. It is great!)
  • Have students display maps and identify which areas they recreated.

*The students may need two class periods in order to finish their scale and concept maps.


The students will be assessed on the following (see attached rubric):
  • completed charts with activities
  • completed scale map
  • completed concept maps

Enrichment Extension Activities

  • Using the data you collected from your walk, use this formula: Distance=Velocity x Time (and Velocity = Distance/Time etc.). Estimate the number of bus and trolley stops along the (route) and calculate the velocity of the bus.
  • Create a geometric grid of the community using parallel and perpendicular lines.
Language Arts
  • Start a journal and call it “A Look around the Community.” Describe a scene or event you observed while walking and keep a record of what you see, hear, smell, and touch. List at least three questions that came into your mind while walking. Outline a possible story or narrative.
  • Find clippings or photographs of the community past and present and write a report about them. The report could include information about a historic resident who lived in the community.
  • Find an ad from the real estate section of the newspaper online and write down the architectural words used to describe the qualities of the structure.
Social Studies
  • What impact do you think the trolley (or another type of transportation) had on the development of this community’s neighborhood, jobs, and industry?
  • Conduct oral history interviews of community organizations and people from the community.  Invite them to participate in the project.
  • Find an old structure in the community and research its history and importance to the community.
  • Thinking about the terrain of the community, why do you think different structures are placed in different locations? Should commercial structures be built close together and near homes? How close should industrial buildings be to homes and natural waterways?

Teacher Reflection

This lesson can be adjusted by extending it into a complete community history study project. Students can continue this lesson by looking at the different systems of the physical community and researching how it has changed over the course of time. For example, they can look at how the transportation systems aided the growth of their neighborhood, and also how loss of industry affected it. The students enjoyed the community walk and learned a lot about the infrastructure of the neighborhood.

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