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Creating a Walking Tour


This lesson asks students to map change over time in a local neighborhood. In addition to delineating chronological change, this assignment asks students to explore a specific geographic community. This project requires students and the class as a whole to leave the classroom in exploring and presenting local history.


Sacred Sites

You will need:
This assignment will take 6-8 weeks, 45 minutes per day, with weekly homework. This is an assignment that should be done as a group, with a division of labor clearly spelled out among students. If instructors can have students conduct walking tours, this should be scheduled on a weekend or on days when students may be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Social Science textbook.
An almanac (suggested).
An atlas (suggested).
Information on local history events.

This assignment requires significant pre-planning. Instructors should pre-determine areas suitable for a walking tour like a local cemetery or a downtown business district. Instructors should gather information and resources that will assist students in compiling information suitable for a walking tour. These include guides, tour books, history books, and even guest speakers who may come in to discuss the importance of a place in the community. Each instructor should design to what extent he or she will integrate the walking tour into the class—from a potential walking tour that includes all aspects of a successful assignment with the exception of actually conducting one, to including the experience of the walking tour as part of the assignment. Instructors should keep in mind that different schools may have restrictions on off-campus activity.

Lesson Hypothesis: Walking Tours of places reveal how history is visible in the built environment and by showing the spatial and geographic distance between places of historic importance. In this assignment students delineate an area of historic importance, justify its importance through research and evidence and then share the walking tour with the class either in an in-class presentation or by leading the tour for the class.

goals & objectives

In completing this lesson, successful students will:

• Define and understand the glossary terms included.
• Observe the increased interconnectedness between the United States and other nations as a result of the globalization fostered by technology, using the built environment as a text.
• Map the United States’ demographic shift through time through a local examination of space and place.
• Chart the contemporary rise of “big government” in the lives of Americans by recounting episodes of civic action in public areas.
• Apply the lessons and tenets of the American experience to their own lives as students near legal adulthood and begin to acquire the legal rights afforded United States’ citizens in their own communities, cities/counties, the state, and the nation.
• Compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.
• Analyze how change happens at different rates at different times; understand that some aspects can change while others remain the same; and understand that change is complicated and affects not only technology and politics but also values and beliefs.
• Use a variety of maps and documents to interpret human movement, including major patterns of domestic and international migration, changing environmental preferences and settlement patterns, the frictions that develop between population groups, and the diffusion of ideas, technological innovations, and goods.
• Relate current events to the physical and human characteristics of places and regions.
• Identify bias and prejudice in historical interpretations.
• Evaluate major debates among historians concerning alternative interpretations of the past, including an analysis of authors’ use of evidence and the distinctions between sound generalizations and misleading oversimplifications.
• Construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations.
• Show the connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments.
• Recognize the complexity of historical causes and effects, including the limitations on determining cause and effect.
• Interpret past events and issues within the context in which an event unfolded rather than solely in terms of present-day norms and values.
• Understand the meaning, implication, and impact of historical events and recognize that events could have taken other directions.
• Analyze human modifications of landscapes and examine the resulting environmental policy issues.
• Conduct cost-benefit analyses and apply basic economic indicators to analyze the aggregate economic behavior of the U.S. economy.
• Work in pairs to create a walking tour.
• Delineate a neighborhood for a walking tour that is both physically achievable and content driven.
• Determine 10-12 places to include on this walking tour that demonstrate change over time and relevant history to the community at hand.
• Research the neighborhood using newspapers, histories of the community and by interviewing people living in the neighborhood.
• Share their walking tours with the class by either leading a walking tour or showing the class the different stops on the tour and explaining their historical significance.
• Reflect on each other’s walking tours and complete the “Lessons Learned Worksheet.”

the lesson

Exercise 1: The instructor should introduce the assignment and go over the glossary terms and the following questions with the class. What neighborhoods can you identify in our community? What neighborhoods are important to you personally? Why? The instructor should list these neighborhoods on the board. Next, the instructor should add any other relevant neighborhoods to the board that are relevant for a walking tour. The instructor should explore the importance of each neighborhood with the class and introduce the different resources available in preparation for the assignment. Students should be divided into groups of 3-4 for each neighborhood.

Exercise 2: Student groups should spend the weeks researching their neighborhoods in preparation for a walking tour. Questions to answer for each of the 10-12 places on the walking tour: When was it created? Where? Why is it significant? Why, if applicable, is the place no longer in existence? Is it named after anyone or anything? Are their historic places in this neighborhood that are not public? Why? Why not? The walking tour should have detailed descriptions of 10-12 sites on the tour. Using one of the local maps provided by the instructor, students should map the sites on the walking tour.

Exercise 3: Students should present the walking tours, depending on the abilities of the class. If an actual walking tour is not possible, student groups should present the walking tour to the class in a presentation with a poster. If digital technologies are present in the class the walking tour may be presented through a website. The poster or website should include a map of the walking tour, a brief description of each site, a timeline showing the history of the neighborhood and a complete bibliography.

Ask class what they learned about process. Did they enjoy it? How does this activity make students better understand the work of historians? Suggestions for the future?

case studies

Evergreen Cemetery in East Los Angeles.


copyright 2010 the Studio for Southern California History