Exploring Our Community

6, 7, 8

To create an awareness of the businesses within a community and their purposes.

Lesson Rating 
PrintA Block of Time for the Field Study and One Follow-Up Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify for-profit and non-profit businesses and government buildings within the community.
  • describe the benefits of having both common and private property in a community.
  • map land use in the community.
  • Parent Letter (Handout One) These should be copied and distributed, along with school permission slips, at least one week in advance of the field study.
  • Contract for Field Study (Handout Two)
  • Cameras for field study
  • Community map
  • Large sheets of butcher paper
  • Yard sticks and rulers for straight lines
  • Black markers and sets of four colored markers for each group

Learning To Give Web site: http://learningtogive.org


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Distribute a sheet of 8½ x 11 blank paper to each student. Ask students to create a mental map of their community. (Tell students this is to be just a quick activity to see how many places in the community they can identify.) Give students about five minutes to complete the task and then ask the class to share their ideas in a whole group. Allow about five minutes for reporting out. (Do not have each student present his or her map individually due to time.)

  2. Distribute and go over Contract for Field Study (Handout Two). Instruct students that their task is to collect as much data as possible about their community. Tell them they will be asked to develop a map of the community upon return to the classroom. They will be asked to draw the layout of the community including all structures and landforms. Ask them to also watch for the general upkeep of the community. This may include the condition of the roads and structures, as well as cleanliness. Divide students into groups of three to five. You may have to organize the groups according to the number of chaperones you are able to get. Take students into the community and have them complete the tasks from the direction sheet. Collect all materials upon return to the classroom to be used in following activities. If standard film was used, get it developed before next class session.

  3. Have students review their findings of the community. Distribute a large sheet of butcher-block paper to each team. Instruct them to create a labeled black outline map of the community. Buildings should be represented with an empty square or rectangle that can be colored in later. (The map should be presented from a birds-eye view, as if students were looking at the community from an airplane.) Be sure they are using only pencils or black felt markers. Maps should include general map features such as orientation (compass rose), title, and key. (It might be helpful to have a purchased map of the community hanging in the room for student reference.)

  4. Instruct students to create a thematic map of the community by color-coding the four different sectors. Choose the colors for each sector as a class so that students can identify information at a glance. Example: government may be blue, market may be green, etc.

  5. Explain the concept of common property versus private property. Have students identify areas of each in the community. (Common properties would be places such as parks, schools, or other places where the public has access. Private properties would be those that were individually owned and may not allow the general public to access without the owners' permission.) Ask students why communities have both private and common property. What are the benefits and disadvantages of each? Help students identify how the community benefits from private ownership, i.e., taxes, jobs, revenue spent within the community.

  6. Have each team share their community, discuss similarities and differences, and give reasons for the differences.


The outline map and thematic map may be used as assessments.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.8 Explain why private property is essential to a market economy.
      2. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Locate and map civil society organizations in the community.