This Is My Neighborhood
Students get to know their way around the school's neighborhood by identifying features with the four senses.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will explore their school neighborhood in this lesson.
- Predict what they might see, hear, and smell on their neighborhood walk.
- Use their senses to describe all the things they see, hear, and smell on a walk through their school neighborhood.
- Assist with creating a map key.
- Work cooperatively to create a block map of their school neighborhood.
- Chart paper/marker
- Parent Letter (PDF)
- Recording Sheet (PDF)
- Urban Planner Homework (PDF)
- Clipboard for each student
- White poster or tag board — 4 sheets
- Pencils/crayons for each student
- Digital camera, if possible
Set Up and Prepare
- Decide on the date for your school neighborhood walk and send home the Parent Letter with each student prior to the lesson.
- Collect all permission slips and determine which parents can volunteer for the walk.
- Prior to the walk, share the Recording Sheet with each parent, emphasizing the walk's objective. Ask them to help record students' observations if necessary.
- Take a quick walk yourself around your school neighborhood, noting what you'd like to point out to students.
- Copy the Recording Sheet and the Urban Planner Homework for each student.
- Divide students into groups of four for the walk and map assignment.
- On each of the four sheets of the poster/tag board, draw "blocks" and label streets to represent your school neighborhood. Students will later fill in all the items they saw from their walk on this "block map." (See Tiny Town photo, top right)
- Create a Prediction Chart by drawing 3 columns on a piece of chart paper and giving it the following heading: "What We Might See, Hear, and Smell in our School Neighborhood".
- Prepare a piece of chart paper with the following heading: "Map Key".
- Set up drawing materials (crayons, pencils, rulers) for the group block maps in Step 8.
- Designate a bulletin board to post the maps, map key, and digital photos.
Step 1: Tell students that they will be going on a walking tour of their school neighborhood. However, they must first predict what they will see, hear, and smell during their walk. Using the Prediction Chart, ask for student responses. Fill in each column and post the chart paper for checking predictions after the walk.
Step 2: Share the Recording Sheet with students. Tell them that on the tour they'll be walking in small groups, and each of them will have a recording sheet, clipboard, and pencil. Each group will have a parent available to help. Their job is to observe what they see, hear, and smell during their walk and record their observations in the appropriate columns. Tell them to also look for other things they might find on the walk, like houses, buildings, street signs, bill boards, bus stops, and store signs.
Step 3: Embark on the school neighborhood walk. Assemble the groups, assign parents, and make sure everyone has their supplies. Take digital photos if possible and print them when you return so you refer to them later in the lesson.
Step 4: When you return to the classroom, gather the students around the Prediction Chart and review. Ask students what can be added and/or deleted. Process the walking tour with a brief discussion of what the children observed. Collect their Recording Sheets for assessment.
Step 5: Review the walking tour with the students. Tell them that they'll be helping you create a Map Key of all the things they saw and later, they'll split into groups to map of their school neighborhood using the Map Key. Using the Prediction Chart, review the things they observed.
Step 6: Discuss the things that should be on a map of their school neighborhood and list them on your "Map Key" chart paper. Then, discuss the way a map key functions. Show them how they can draw pictures to represent items on their maps. Decide as a group what the pictures should look like for each item. If desired, have the "artists" of the class help draw the pictures on the chart paper. Post this Map Key near the student maps when they're all complete.
Step 7: After the Map Key is complete, share the four pieces of white poster/tag board with the students, pointing out how you have designated the neighborhood "block" and street names. Tell them that they'll be working in the same groups from the walking tour to draw in all the things that they saw, like the buildings, people, signs, cars, and fire hydrants. Remind them that they'll be using the Map Key pictures to represent neighborhood things and they'll need to work together to decide who will draw each item. Give some examples of how they might do this. For example, designate one student to draw all the buildings, another to draw the signs, and so forth. If you have digital photo prints available from the walk, share them with the students to "revisit" the neighborhood before getting started.
Step 8: Assemble the groups and help them decide where to work. Give them a map, provide the drawing materials, and let them begin. Encourage them to refer to the Map Key and use those pictures to represent each item.
Step 9: When the maps are complete, allow time for each group to present their map to the class. Post these maps and the digital photos near the Map Key.
Supporting All Learners
Parent volunteers can help students who have difficulty writing what they see, hear, and smell on the tour. Make sure to ask these students to give verbal responses to check for understanding.
- Write a letter or have students sign a class thank you note to the parents who volunteered for the walk. Include a digital photo of the class if possible.
- Take more school neighborhood walks focusing on different objectives: interviewing neighborhood store owners/employees; measuring the neighborhood (how wide/tall is the store?); investigating how a particular store functions (restaurant, dry cleaners, fast food restaurant).
Homework Ideas: Assign the Urban Planner Homework Printable to allow students to transfer their learning to their own neighborhood. Or have students count all the streets signs they can find and write down the information they find on the signs.
- Complete the Recording Sheet during the school neighborhood walk.
- Complete a group block map.
- What worked and didn't work on the walking tour? What can be improved for the next walk?
- Were students able to complete their work with little assistance?
- Was student work organized and neat?
- Were students able to express themselves in written and/or visual formats?
Written Outcome: Review the Recording Sheet to check for understanding. Check student maps to see if they transferred the pictures from the Map Key to their group map.