What Building Used to Be There?
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.3 Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior in a democracy.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.

The purpose of this lesson is to help students become aware that their city has changed over the years—in some ways for the better and other ways for the worse. Students analyze why preserving old buildings is important enough to some people that they give their time, talent, and treasure. They gain respect for people and things that are old.

PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods, Plus additional time to develop timeline

The learner will:

  • read and respond to The Little House by Virginia Burton.
  • observe the history of the area through pictures and stories.
  • draw an old building.
  • discuss memories with a senior friend.
  • go on a historical tour of the area (or in a museum).
  • create a timeline of when major local buildings were constructed.
  • historical information about your area (books, pictures, or video)
  • timeline paper (butcher paper or poster board)
  • rulers
  • read aloud copy of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Home Connection: 

Students ask older family members (or neighbors) if they remember any buildings in the area which were knocked down. Students should ask the person what his/her feelings are/were about that building (or the new building) and if there was any protest about this. Students may bring in notes from the conversation.


Burton, Virginia Lee. The Little House. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1978. ISBN: 0395181569

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the students whether they live in the city or the country (or a suburb). Then ask them whether they think their area has always been that way. Tell them you will read them a story about a house that has seen many changes in its "life."

  2. Read aloud the book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. This is a classic book about a city growing up over time around a little house in the country. Ask the students what details in this story could actually happen. Discuss whether the changes in the story were good for the community. (The students may be able to find positive and negative aspects of the growing city.) Write their ideas on the board.

  3. Name some very old things (buildings, trees, etc.) in your area. Say, "If those old things could talk, I wonder what they would say about the changes they have seen around here?" Ask the students where these old things would go on a timeline of the history of your area.

  4. Start a timeline of your local community by drawing a horizontal line on butcher paper or poster board cut and taped into a long narrow strip. Tell the students that like the community in the story, your own local community has gone through many changes over the years. Ask the students to name some significant parts of the community (positive and negative). They may get some ideas from the brainstormed list from The Little House.

  5. Assign the students different research responsibilities related to important places, people, and dates for the timeline of the community. (For example, find out the year that city hall was built, the indigenous people who lived in the area, when the first settlers came or when certain developments were started, famous people, etc.) This assignment may be completed with classroom and school resources or as homework. Have the students plot the information on the timeline.

  6. For homework: Students ask older family members (or neighbors) if they remember any buildings in the area which were knocked down. Students should ask the person what his/her feelings are/were about that building (or the new building) and if there was any protest about this. Students may bring in notes from the conversation.

  7. Day Two:

  8. Show the students pictures, video, or books about the history of your area. Discuss some of the changes and compare the changes to the book read aloud yesterday (The Little House). It would be helpful to show the students an example of a preserved building in the community.

  9. Ask students to share the stories they heard last night about old buildings in the area. What are some of the feelings these old buildings generated and why? How did people volunteer their time, talent, and treasure to stop the destruction of old buildings or natural areas? Why are people willing to work hard to save old things? Are all old things worth saving? Reflect on the decisions to tear down certain buildings. Were they good decisions?

  10. Look at maps of the area to determine why certain buildings are constructed where they are. Are factories built near rivers? Where is downtown located? Discuss the culture and environment of the area. Notice how the public transportation moves around the area of higher population density. Where are the schools and subdivisions located and why?

  11. Have students write a reflection piece about the day’s discussion. Tell them to include some questions they would like to ask an elderly person from the community about buildings or the area in the past. These questions can be sent to the senior friend established in Lesson One or they may make a return visit to discuss the community in the past.

  12. Day Three:

  13. Each student or pairs of students will make a personal timeline of the history of the community. Students may use information gathered by the class through the class timeline as well as maps, books, and discussions. They may also use information from their families and senior friends. The timeline should include 5 or more significant dates. See rubric below for guidelines.


Use the following rubric to assess students’ personal timelines of the community history.

Four Points: Timeline shows at least 5 accurate dates. Timeline is neat and properly labeled. Timeline is enhanced with drawings and symbols to improve appearance and understanding. Timeline reflects care and interest in the community history.