Looking at Our Community

9, 10, 11, 12

In lesson one, Global Issues, students looked at problems and solutions in other parts of the world. (Note: It is not necessary to do Global Issues before doing this lesson)  In this lesson, they examine their community from their own eyes, the “eyes” of the media, and the eyes of the community. They observe the good that is occurring in the community and determine who is providing the “good” that does exist. They use the five themes of geography as their base for study. 

PrintOne or Two Class Periods

The learners will:

  • describe the community using location, place, human-environment interactions, movement and region.
  • analyze how the community is viewed in the media.
  • survey attitudes about what is good and needs work in the community.
  • Student copies of Looking at Our Community through the Five Themes of Geography (handout)
  • Student copies of Looking at Our Community through the Eyes of the Media (handouts include Spanish version)
  • Access to the local newspaper
  • Student copies of Community Survey (handouts include Spanish version)
  • Rubric for “Looking at Our Community” Essay (handouts include Spanish version)
Teacher Preparation 

The instructions below offer options for a  "One Day" approach and a "Two Day" approach

Home Connection 

Two Day: Students will survey the community regarding its attitudes about life in the area. Family members or other adults may be asked to complete the two questions in the survey.


  1. Anticipatory Set: If someone asked you to describe your community without talking about what it looks like and where it is located, what would you say about it? (Emphasize most the “human” characteristics of the community.) Allow students to think, pair, and share their thoughts.

  2. This lesson is about looking at our community, understanding where it is, the people in it, and how it functions as a unique space. Distribute student copies of Looking at Our Community through the Five Themes of Geography. Working as a whole group, begin to use the five themes of geography (location, place, human-environment interaction, movement and region) as a way to accumulate information about the community. When the chart is completed, ask the learners if the chart gives a detailed look at their community. If they feel it needs additional characteristics listed, add them at the end of the chart.

  3. Ask the learners to describe how they believe others see our community (thriving economy, sleepy town, factory town, beautiful recreational area, etc.). How do the students know that this is the perception of their community? How is their community represented in the media?

    Using the handout Looking at Our Community through the Eyes of the Media and access to the local newspapers online, students work in teams to fill in the media review form. Then create a T-chart on the board with the whole class: Identified Problems/Actions for the Common Good.

    One Day Note: For time purposes, select and distribute several recent newspaper stories describing aspects of the community or assign students to bring a story to class; Give guidance about the types of topics that are acceptable--no car crashes!

  4. From the information provided on the chart, discuss the major problems facing the community, as seen from the eyes of the media. Do the good things that are happening outweigh the bad? Who does the “good” that is occurring in the community (government, business, education, philanthropy)? How important is the media in shaping people’s feelings about the things that occur in the community? Have students give an example.

  5. Two Day option: Students use the Community Survey (handout) to ask people in the community what they would identify as good and bad things about the community. Talk about how to find a diverse representative sample, since it is not possible to ask everyone in the community to answer the questions. The survey should be completed for homework. Emphasize safe practices.

  6. Two Day option: Tabulate the results of the completed surveys and discuss the results.

    1. Identify the top three to five problems identified by the community sample.
    2. Identify the top three to five positive features of the community.
    3. Are there a variety of problems and positive traits, or are the same issues identified?
    4. How did the view expressed by the students about their community, the view expressed by the media through their news stories, and the view expressed in the community survey compare and contrast? 
  7. Optional as homework: Ask students to complete an essay called “Looking at Our Community.” It should include the following information:

    • How was the community perceived by the students in the class?
    • What were the good and bad things perceived about the community by the media?
    • What were the good and bad things perceived about the community by the community sample?
    • Were the perceptions the same or did something else account for the different perceptions?
  8. Use Rubric for “Looking at Our Community” Essay (handout) for scoring.

  9. Discuss how the problems and good things going on in the community compare to the global communities looked at in the first lesson. Are the root problems and solutions similar or different? Why or why not?


The “Looking at Our Community” essay may be used as an assessment.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.