For the past few months our 4th grade students at LEARN Excel Charter Schools engaged in projects to improve their community using a tool called “community mapping”. Through these projects our students were able to identify ways to improve their community and then take action to make it better.
So what is community mapping? The idea is simple. Students create a map of their community and on the map they identify areas that cause challenges in their community and areas that are beneficial to their community.
To help our students find concrete challenges and benefits, we took them on a walk around their school and photographed what they saw. Our students identified their school, trees, and fire hydrants as things that benefit their community, and litter, graffiti, and broken street signs as challenges that need to be addressed.
Working in small groups, the students used the photos to create their maps and then presented their maps to their classmates. After the presentations, the students discussed projects that would solve problems in their community or make good places in the community even better.
Since they identified their school as being a positive place within their community, they decided to have a school supplies collection drive and perform plays they created to educate the younger students. They also decided to have a litter cleanup day to reduce the pollution in their area. All three projects were a huge success!
Community mapping is a simple tool that connects students to the outside world and makes learning exciting and relevant. It can also make issues in the community more concrete or tangible, which is especially important for younger students.
If you would like to learn more about how HEART structures our community mapping projects, contact Mickey at Mickey@teachhumane.org.