This activity introduces students to the physical form and characteristics of a neighborhood. Having this knowledge gives them the tools to make connections between the built environment and quality of citizen experience. During this activity, students will take a journey through their neighborhood, and document what they see on a map in categories. Then, they will analyze their information through the lens of neighborhood characteristics, and ultimately determine how the citizen experience is affected.
Download the entire Neighborhood Analysis Lesson Plan.
How does the shape that we give to your city, in turn, shape us?
Supporting Question: What makes a community functional, healthy, and beautiful?
I can document an experience through map annotation.
I can organize information into categories, and represent those categories on a map.
I can analyze a neighborhood to determine its physical conditions.
I can identify successes and challenges in my school’s neighborhood.
I can determine how the physical characteristics of a neighborhood impact the experience of its citizens.
Excerpt from Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan: “The Transect” chapter (pgs. 40 - 52)
When analyzing their observations from the neighborhood walk, have them consider how they impact health. Guiding questions for this can be found in the “Neighborhood Analysis Guide.”
Large Map of school’s neighborhood (one per group)
For Nashville, contact the Nashville Civic Design Center for this resource.
For other communities, contact your local planning department for this resource.
“Neighborhood Impacts” (ready for projection)
“Map Annotation Guide” (one per student)
“Map Drawing Guide” (one per group)
“Neighborhood Analysis Guide” (one per group)
Walking tour map (one per student)
Tracing Paper (large roll)
Launch: 10 min
Introduction and Neighborhood Exploration Prep: 10 min
Neighborhood Exploration: 1 hr
Documentation: 25 min
Gallery Walk: 30 min
Total time: 2 hrs 30 min
“Neighborhood Impacts” document ready for projection
Prepare a map that highlights a 1-1.5 mile walk through your school’s neighborhood. Make sure that you pass as much of the following neighborhood elements as you can: parks, building types, transportation types, historic or iconic buildings, public art, and food resources. Mark stopping points along the way to help students keep track of where they are.
Handouts (one per group)
Map Drawing Guide
Neighborhood Analysis Guide
Handouts (one per student)
Walking Tour Map
Map Annotation Guide
Chart paper, markers, 18x24 neighborhood map with trace paper overlay, and post-its for each group to work on the Documentation portion of the activity.
Reflection questions ready for projection or as a handout.
This launch is intended to activate student’s thinking about the impacts that neighborhood elements have on quality of life. This idea gives purpose to the neighborhood exploration and analysis that will follow.
Use the “Neighborhood Impacts” document to have a class discussion about how common things that we see in neighborhoods affect the experience.
Transition to Activity: As you introduce the activity, make the following key points:
We learned how important neighborhoods and communities are to forming our identity. Now, we’re going to dive deeper into what about a neighborhood impacts quality of life.
We will use exploration, mapping, and observation skills to create a class analysis of our school’s neighborhood. The purpose is to identify pros, cons, and potential improvements.
Ask students to share what they consider to be pros and cons of your school’s neighborhood based on their experience so far.
Through exploration and mapping, determine the pros, cons, and potential solutions for your school’s neighborhood.
Introduction: Introduce the above directions, and clarify any vocabulary they might not know.
Prep Students for Neighborhood Exploration: Assign each category on the “Map Annotation Guide” handout to a group, and explain that they will be annotating their map as they walk to record only their assigned category. There are two options for annotation guides that offer different levels of guidance. Choose the one that best fits the needs of your students. Give students time to read their category’s description. Help them orient themselves on the map by pointing out where you are now, and what direction you’ll be going. Note: If one of the categories doesn’t have much to observe on the walk, assign more than one category to that group.
Neighborhood Exploration: As a class, take the planned walk around your school’s neighborhood. As you walk, encourage student’s to observe their category, and model some examples to get them started. Take frequent enough stops for them to allow for the following:
Catch up writing on their map.
Share out likes and dislikes that you’ve seen so far.
Re-orient on map to make sure everyone is marking the correct locations.
Documentation: After the neighborhood exploration, have each group create the following documentation about their findings for the category that they were assigned:
Map: Give each group a map of the neighborhood, and have them create a high quality version of their map annotation from the walk that shows all of their findings for their category. They should do their drawing on a trace paper overlay. See the “Map Drawing Guide” handout.
Pros/cons: Have students make a list of what they considered to be pros and cons of their category on post-its. See the “Neighborhood Analysis Guide.”
Improvement Ideas Poster: Have each group write 2 improvement ideas on a poster that will be displayed beside the map.
Gallery Walk - With all of the posters and maps displayed, have students rotate around and do the following:
Write observations on post-its about what they see. What do they like? What surprises them? What challenges do they see? What trends do they notice? Etc.
Have a class discussion about what the class considers to be the biggest pros and cons of the neighborhood. Then, discuss the solution ideas that address the cons. Specifically address how the change would improve quality of life.
Have students answer the following reflection questions that help them connect the ideas you just talked about to their own neighborhood.
How is your school’s neighborhood similar and different from your own neighborhood?
What challenges in your school’s neighborhood are also true for your own neighborhood?
Give one example of how something in your school’s neighborhood impacts the citizen’s quality of life.