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Sustainable Schools Project: What Does it Mean to be a Citizen in Our Neighborhood?


When Lawrence Barnes Elementary School teachers Amy LaChance and Deirdre Morris developed the year-long essential question for their 2nd and 3rd grade classes "How do we care for the world and how does the world care for us?" it made
sense to use the surrounding neighborhood as a spring board for broader study.

This winter LaChance and Morris are keeping close to campus but expanding the walls of their
classroom to include the Old North End neighborhood and community members as teachers as they set about a new eight-week unit of study "What does it mean to be a citizen in
our neighborhood?"

Key components of the Lawrence Barnes 2nd/3rd grade Neighborhood Unit:

Mapping: Students kick off the unit with the creation of a hall-sized map of their city, plotting their school, roads, the river, lake, their homes and other points of community interest. Along the way they learn map reading skills and begin to visualize their place in new and different ways.

Literacy: Each week students read neighborhood-themed informational text and fiction, exploring career books and stories about children around the world. After a field trip, students write personal narratives about the community resources they visited.

Photography: In a workshop with a local photographer, students examine the powerful stories photographs can tell. While viewing photos from a local newspaper, magazine advertisements and those taken by children in
India and Haiti as part of the project Kids with Cameras, students learn to be mindful of each shot as they use photography as a tool to share their individual voice and perspective.

Field Trips: Equipped with clipboards, paper, pencils, inquiry skills and point and shoot cameras, small groups of students embark on Friday afternoon field trips throughout
December and January. Each excursion has 2-3
planned points of interest where students gather information as they meet with community members, discovering new things about familiar and not so familiar places.

Service-learning: The unit culminates in a class book illustrated with photos, illuminated with narratives "An Old North End Neighborhood Guide" to be presented to new residents through the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.
Once they have evaluated the positive attributes and opportunities for improvement in their community, students will be able to put their skills and knowledge into action. They will perform a service-learning project of
their choosing to celebrate their work and their
neighborhood. Possible projects include a neighborhood mural, assisting the food shelf, and a community green up.

By asking questions like "Where is our eighborhood? What makes our neighborhood function? What's the history of our neighborhood? What roles do people have
in our community?" students begin to see the interconnectedness of their place. Students have acquired and practiced these new skills and have come to see and experience the familiar in a new light. Now they are ready to investigate new topics such as the natural world, human
body systems, and the solar system.
As students examine and value what is right outside the school door, they are not only empowered to understand their neighbors as resources, but also welcome their role
as a steward of the neighborhood and the greater community.


Label Value
Project City Burlington
Project State Vermont
Project School Lawrence Barnes Elementary
First Name Matt
Last Name Dubel
Organization Shelburne Farms Sustainable Schools Project
State Shelburne
Zip VT
Phone 802-985-8686
Keywords mapping, neighborhood, literacy, photography
Pedagogical Area
  • place-based education, environment as integrating context (EIC)
  • service learning
  • education for sustainability
Subject Area
  • reading, writing, English as a second language
  • visual and performing arts
  • social studies, geography, global studies
  • cultural history, folklore, racial studies, community studies
Delivery Area
  • school based
Outcome Area
  • civic engagement
  • self efficacy
  • stewardship behavior
  • career awareness
  • community change
Participant Area
  • student
Demographic Area
  • urban
Age Area
  • elementary (6-11 years old)
  • Sustainable Schools Project (SSP)