This activity has students explore different forms of communities, or “transect zones.”  Students will research what a day in the life is like for citizens in each transect zone, and represent their experience on a map of their neighborhood.  Through this activity, students will gain a deeper understanding of how the form and characteristics of a neighborhood can impact  the experience.  They will develop skills in reading and interpreting maps, and exercise their creativity.


Download the entire Transects Story Map Lesson Plan.


Core Question

How does the shape that we give to your city, in turn, shape us?
Supporting Question: What makes a community functional, healthy, and beautiful?

learning Objectives

I can represent a day in the life of a community member on a map.
I can explain the characteristics of each transect zone.
I can determine the pros and cons for the different transect zones.
I can explain how the shape of a neighborhood shapes the experience.

Supporting Text

Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan, by Gary Gaston and Christine Kreyling


Transect zone - an area of land where the build conditions are similar
Rural - an area generally located outside towns and cities. Typically, they have a low population density, and small settlements.
Urban - an area with a high population and building density.
Suburban - a residential or mixed use area that exists as a separate community within commuting distance of a city.
Downtown/Core - the central area or main business and commercial area of a town or a city.

health focus

When creating their story map, have the students identify which parts are health promoting, and health defeating.


Nashville Transect Map

Dry-erase markers
Sticker dots
Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan transect chapter introductions packet (one)
Laminated maps: Urban, Suburban, Rural, Downtown
Pictures of map examples

Timing recommendation

Launch: 30 min

Introduction: 5 min
Research: 10 min
Map Creation: 30 min
Presentations:  30 min (3 min presentations per group wtih 2 min feedback recommended)

Closing:15 min
Total time: 2 hrs



  • Handouts (one per student):
    “Neighborhood Design Comparison” worksheets.
    “Nashville Transects Bar Graph and Map” displayed.


  • Print the Transect Chapter Introductions for each group. Each group only needs their assigned transect.

  • Map creation materials ready for each group: laminated transect map, play-doh, post-its, dry-erase markers, and any other materials you would like for them to use.

  • Map creation directions ready for display.


  • Discussion questions ready for projection.



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This launch is intended to activate student’s thinking about how the shape of a neighborhood can shape the experience.  It also activates student’s background knowledge on terms used to describes neighborhood types.  

  1. Have students fill out the “Neighborhood Design Comparison: Suburban vs. Urban and Rural vs. Suburban,” worksheets, and let them share out their findings. Push students talk about what they believe the experience is like.

  2. As a class, look at the “Neighborhood Design Comparison” diagram. Identify a house in each neighborhood, and map out different routes to different destinations such as work and shopping. A recommended facilitation method is to project the map on a white board, and have a student pick a house to draw routes from. Discuss differences in the mobility of one versus the other. Some key points include:

    • Traditional Neighborhood

      • There are multiple routes to destinations, and it is not necessary to get on the collector road. This will decrease traffic.

      • Shorter distances between destinations make it more walkable.

      • People will be more likely to walk or bike since they don’t have to get on the collector road.

    • Suburban neighborhood

      • You always have to get on the collector road to reach a new destination, which increases traffic on the collector road.

      • It isn’t very walkable because the destinations are far apart, and you would have to walk on the busy collector road.

      • It has more privacy around the homes since the streets don’t have many connections.

  3. Define transect- an area of land where the built conditions are similar.

  4. Observe the transect map, and identify all of the different transect zones. Discuss the following:

    • What do you currently know about each zone based on just the name?

    • What can you tell about each zone by looking at the map?

  5. Transition to Activity: Explain to students that they just began exploring how the shape of a community can shape the experience. They will further explore what life is like in the Downtown, Urban, Suburban, and Rural transect zones.




Represent a day in the life of a community member on a map of his or her neighborhood.

  • Introduction: Introduce the directions below to students, then show some of the example maps that are included at the end of this guide.

    • Each group will be assigned one of the four transect zones.

    • They will research what life is like in that community be reading an interview of a community member.

    • They will represent a day in the life of the community member on the map.

  • Grouping: Divide your class into groups, and assign each to one of the four transect zones: Downtown, Urban, Suburban, and Rural. Given the complexity of tasks and potential for groups to be large, there are some recommended group roles below:

    • Leader - starts discussions and asks the teacher questions

    • Reader - reads the text to the group

    • Note takers - take notes on what needs to be represented from the text

    • Designers - figure out creative ways to represent the community member’s life with the given materials.

  • Research: To research what a day in the life is like in their assigned neighborhood, each group should read the community member profile in the “Transect Chapter Introductions” that relates to their assigned transect zone. Having students interview a community member who lives in their assigned transect zone about what a day in their life is like would be a meaningful addition to their research.

  • Map Creation: Using play-doh, post-its, and dry-erase markers, and sticker dots to represent a day in the life of the researched community member on the laminated map. Their map should include, but not be limited to the list below. Let students be creative with how they tell the story, and they should not limit themselves to what is in the interview. For example, they could draw emojis, color code, draw thought bubbles, build play-doh sculptures, etc.

    • Streets that they take

    • Transportation modes

    • Destinations

    • Likes and dislikes (what makes them happy, sad, angry, proud, etc.)

    • Improvements they would like to see

    • (Optional) Aspects of the neighborhood that are health promoting, and health defeating

  • Let each group present their map being sure to address the five categories listed above.




After presentations, use the questions below to have a discussion about trends and individual neighborhood connections: 

  1. What trends do you see across the transect zones in terms of what is working vs. what needs to be improved?

  2. Which transect zone is the most like your neighborhood? What are the similarities?

  3. Do you think that the recommended improvements would also benefit your neighborhood?


Have students write what a day in their own life is like. Using the neighborhood map from the “Neighborhood Analysis” activity, have them create their own story map.