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The Mass. Studies Project

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for Massachusetts Teachers

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Discovering My Neighborhood: A Personal Map

For grades 3 - 5

Vineyard Haven Handdrawn Map
Mmodern reference sketch of Vineyard Haven by Stan Lair. Source: Historical Records of Tisbury, MA










When students develop a sense of place, they are able to relate examples close at hand to the larger picture. Additionally, when students see a connection to themselves they take a greater interest in learning. The teacher can find many ways to further develop the student’s sense of place by building upon this introductory, motivational lesson. The neighborhood is a good place to begin to encourage learning experiences that lead to increased understanding of the larger world.

The purpose of this lesson is to make students aware of the role their neighborhood plays in their own lives, and in the life of the community. In this lesson, students will:

  • understand what makes up a neighborhood

  • draw a personal map of a neighborhood

  • identify the geography and landmarks of a neighborhood as well as the built environment

  • consider how the neighborhood relates to the larger community/state


This lesson is geared toward students in grades 3-5.

Curriculum Standards

History and Social Sciences

pre K-1.Describe the location and features of places in the immediate neighborhood of the student’s home or school. (G) Apply concept of neighborhood from previous grades;

3.1. New England and Massachusetts

On a map of the United States, locate the New England states (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) and the Atlantic Ocean. On a map of Massachusetts, locate major cities and towns, Cape Ann, Cape Cod, the Connecticut River, the Merrimack River, the Charles River, and the Berkshire Hills.(G);

3.8. Cities and Towns of Massachusetts

On a map of Massachusetts, locate the class's home town or city and its local geographic features and landmarks. (G)

3.9. Identify historic buildings, monuments, or sites in the area and explain their purpose and significance. (H, C)

3.11. Identify when the students' own town or city was founded, and describe the different groups of people who have settled in the community since its founding. (H, G)

3.12. Explain how objects or artifacts of everyday life in the past tell us how ordinary people lived and how everyday life has changed. Draw on the services of the local historical society and local museums as needed. (H, G, E)

3.13. Give examples of goods and services provided by their local businesses and industries. (E)

3.14. Give examples of tax-supported facilities and services provided by their local government, such as public schools, parks, recreational facilities, police and fire departments, and libraries. (E)


1) Display photographs of different types of neighborhoods, whether pinned on bulletin board, or displayed on a computer display screen (examples from MSP).

2) Brainstorm what makes up a neighborhood by making a classroom list of all the things they would observe in taking a walk around their school’s neighborhood.

3) After a list has been generated, place each neighborhood characteristic into one of two categories: “NATURAL” or “BUILT” environment.

4) Have students identify features from the classroom list and indicate which are most important to them, and why.

5) Have students identify what features relate to the larger community (telephone lines, street maintenance, water supply, e.g.)

6) Have students consider the neighborhood where they live, and then create a personal drawing of their street or block.

7) Discuss what features of their neighborhood they consider most important and why.

Resources Needed

Neighborhood photographs (drawn from various online sources, including the Mass. Memories Road Show collection, the Mass. Studies Project website, Google Images, the Library of Congress, Flickr, or personal collections.)

Sheets of paper and drawing materials for personal maps


A rubric will be used that considers completeness of the personal map (artistic ability not counted) which includes features from class list, and indications of personal importance, as well as contribution to discussion.

Rubric Worksheet: in XLS (spreadsheet) format or PDF format

Adapting for Other Grade Levels

K-2: Children can hear a story about a neighborhood before drawing a picture of their own yard and surroundings.

Grades 1 & 2 can label the objects and features they have drawn. All can discuss what is most important to them about their neighborhood

Grades 5-12: Expand upon the Mapmaking lesson, “Your Neighborhood Then and Now”

This lesson was designed by Barbara D. Robinson.
Questions? Contact:


Massachusetts Map

The Mass. Studies Project

These curricular modules were developed with support from the
John H. and H. Naomi Tomfohrde Foundation

The "Our Town, Our City" Curricular Resources Project is an initiative of the Massachusetts Studies Project, Institute for Learning and Teaching, University of Massachusetts, Boston

The lesson plan formatting is based on The WebQuest template.

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