Project Ideas for Places and Perspectives
(Text Only Format)
and Local Politics
Every city or region must make decisions about how to
use land and where to place houses, schools, libraries, airports, hospitals,
prisons, power plants, roads, freeways, and airports. Often there is a
great deal of controversy over land use decisions. For example:
- Residents do not want prisons or airports near their
- Developers argue for zoning laws permitting them to
multi-unit housing on agricultural lands.
- The utility company and homeowners debate the safety
a nuclear power plant on a known earthquake fault.
- Commuters and landowners often disagree on plans for
or building new highways or rapid transit systems.
The purpose of this project is to help students recognize
that these important land use decisions are made in all communities and
that individuals, groups and organizations play important roles in the
decision making process. This process can help students learn to evaluate
different perspectives and form their own ideas on controversial issues.
The classroom sponsoring this project might send one of the following
requests for participation to other classrooms on the network.
Ideas for Learning Circle Projects on Land Use:
Describing Problems. The sponsoring
class requests all classes to consider any issue of land use in their
community. Students will need to explain what the problem is and describe
the groups (residents, parents, businesses, social services, city planning
department) involved in the decision making process. How does each group
provide input to the decision making process? What actions have been taken?
These descriptions are sent to the Learning Circle.
Searching for Solutions. The sponsoring class
sends out descriptions of various land use debates in their community.
They ask other places if their community has dealt with a similar problem.
If not, why has it not been a problem? If so, how was it resolved? This
input will help us learn how common problems are dealt with in different
Evaluating Solutions. The sponsoring classroom
presents a land use problem in their community to the Learning Circle.
They describe a number of possible solutions detailing the strength
of each one. The other classrooms take a survey to see which position
is favored. Once the decision is made, a few students summarize the
main reasons the students in that location supported one solution over
Different Perspectives on
History is our reconstruction of past events. We often
teach history to students as if there was only a single view on these
past events. However history books from different countries, and sometimes
from different locations within a country, treat the same event in very
different ways. The goal of this project is to compare what students in
different regions learn about a particular time period or event by comparing
their text books and classroom instruction.
Here are some history ideas that the sponsoring class
History Quiz: What am I? Students
from each of the classrooms would write a descriptive essay from the perspective
of a local monument, battle site, museum, or other historical location
or object from their area. They would provide clues to the time period
and the significant people and events. Students from the other sites use
their history or reference books to try to guess the object or location.
This project will help students find out more about each other's history.
They will also discover what resources are available in their library
for learning more about their Learning Circle partners.
The American War of Independence
Cultural Perspectives on Historical Events.
What do you learn about a specific historical event or time period in
your state or country? The specific event or time period might be: The
U.S. Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, the invention of the automobile
or telephone, the causes of the Cold War, space exploration programs,
the Vietnam War, the Cultural Revolution of Iran or the student bid
for democracy/counterrevolution in China. For example, here is a Canadian
view on the American Revolution:
This is the way our history book describes
the American War of Independence. We are summarizing the information in
a chapter that has 10 pages with some pictures:
In April 1775, the colonial forces began to fight against the British.
George Washington was the leader of the army and they fought a number
of battles. Washington decided to invade Quebec. He thought that the French
merchants and Canadian people would also fight in the war against the
British but he was disappointed to find out that he was wrong.
On New Year's Eve, 1775, Washington's army tried to
capture Quebec but it did not succeed. The cold winter weather made
it difficult to fight. The colonists were very surprised to find that
the Canadians were less than eager to join the war. Most of the Canadian
people had decided to stay neutral. Why should they want to get involved
in an English family quarrel, they asked. The very bad weather conditions
and the lack of new support forced Washington and his army to retreat
But the colonists did not give up and in 1776 the American
colonists declared their independence from England and kept on fighting.
It was difficult for the poorly armed and untrained colonial troops
to fight the British army. England had a large supply of guns and warm
uniforms. The Americans had to use 'hit-and-run' tactics to
wear down the British troops. In 1778 France agreed to help the American
troops. They did not want England to have control over the New World.
With French supplies and naval support the American army began to win
more and more battles.
War ended in 1783 the Peace of Paris Treaty was signed
and The United States of America was a new country. These actions affected
Canada. Not all American colonists had joined in the idea to oppose
The war divided the colonists into two groups. The
"Patriots" were the ones who supported the revolutionary fight for freedom
and an end to British rule. The "Loyalists" were people who opposed
this cause and wanted to stay under British authority and supported
King George III. Many of them came from different countries (there were
German, Dutch, Quaker, Mennonites and Jews) and were afraid of losing
their customs and traditions which they felt were protected under British
rule. Once the war started, everyone was forced to take sides. Sometimes
people in the same family became enemies because they did not agree
The book says that no one knows the exact number of
loyalists but that people think it was more than 100,000 people! They
were farmers, merchants, tradesmen, doctors and lawyers. They liked
the king or did not like the war. After the war, these people did not
want to stay around as they would not be too popular with the patriots!
So they had to leave after the war. They mostly went to England and
English colonies. Lots of them came up to Canada.
There were also a lot of Black slaves who were Loyalists
and fought in the "Black Pioneers" corps of the British army. British
soldiers told the slaves that if they fought with them they would be
freed and given land. After the war about 3,000 Black Americans fled
to Nova Scotia in Canada with other Loyalists, but they were not treated
the same. They were treated mean and given poor land. Because of this
bad treatment, some left to go to New Brunswick and Quebec, others went
to a place in Africa called Freetown that the British founded to be
a home for freed slaves.
Many Indians from the Mohawk Tribe from New York were
also Loyalists. They hoped to protect their culture, customs and land,
by supporting British rule and fought with British soldiers. Molly Brant,
a Mohawk Indian leader stated that "Our people have been allies of the
English King for many years and our loyalty will continue for many more."
Molly was married to the superintendent of Indians in British North
America and she helped fight with her brother for the right to land.
Britain did reward the Mohawk Loyalists by giving them
territory to settle in Southern Ontario which they called Six Nations
Reserve. After moving from New York to Ontario and settling on the land,
it was later taken away from the Mohawks and given to white settlers.
A Mohawk Indian stated "When I look around me, above and below, I see
nothing but white... and now we have nothing left but a spot to stand
All human activities require movement. People need to
move themselves, their products, and their ideas across distances. Very
few places are self-sufficient and therefore extensive transportation
networks link places together. Cities develop around centers that are
linked to other centers. Transportation links are planned and organized
to save energy, reduce travel time, and conserve resources. Geographic
features of a location influence transportation and play a big role in
the development of cities. The goals of this project are to describe and
analyze transportation routes and to understand how geographic features
interact with transportation to affect many aspects of the community.
Here are some project ideas:
Location Information. Study a map
of your city. What determines the boundaries and shape of your city? City
boundaries can be formed by geographic features such as mountains, rivers,
lakes or canyons, or by constructed boundaries such as a road, a freeway,
or the edge of a property line. Here are some ideas for information the
sponsoring classroom might request for a project on location.
- List the name and size of your city in population
and square miles.
- Describe your city's boundaries to the east, west,
north and south.
- List four ways your city is connected to the closest
- Describe how transport patterns interact with geographic
Transportation Systems. Every city is connected to
other cities by a range of transportation routes. Students can describe
these patterns and discuss their influence on local businesses that
have developed. For example, a city on an ocean, river, railroad line
or major freeway may have many industries that rely heavily on transportation.
- What are the major transportation routes in and
out of your city?
- What is the history of these routes and the vehicles
used on them?
- How does transportation influence the type of industry
in your city?
- What ideas do you have for improving transportation
in the future in your area?
Transporting People. People everywhere daily
move through their environment. The amount and form of movement will
vary with social, economic and geographic patterns. The sponsoring classroom
might explore these differences. Here are some ideas for questions:
- How many miles does the average student, mother,
and father travel from
their home each school day?
- What is the longest and shortest distance for each
category of people?
- What are the most common means of transportation
used by each group?
- How does geography influence these decisions?
Challenge: Can you compute the cost per passenger
per mile for each of the forms of transportation listed?
Traveling is one of the ways that we learn how people
have adapted to and modified their physical and social environments. The
traveler experiences different cuisines, living patterns and transportation
systems. All these changes help the traveler realize the rich diversity
in human-environmental adaptation. In this project the students plan a
travel guide and itinerary for a projected visit from their Learning Circle
This project could include one or both of the following
Travel Guides: Have your class
discuss traveling to new places. What kind of information is important
to know before you arrive? Help students understand why travelers want
to know about the climate, the history, social customs, language and geography.
Ask students to think about their own community and what people should
know about it before they arrive. Have the students write a brief history
and description of their city in the form of a travel guide. Finished
travel guides are shared with all Learning Circle participants but can
also be sent to your Chamber of Commerce for distribution to visitors.
Two - Day Travel Itinerary: Imagine that a
small group of students from the other sites have arrived in your city.
It is your job to plan their stay from the time they arrive at the closest
airport to the time they depart. The sponsoring classroom will provide
a theme for the visit. For example, the purpose of the visit could be
- Learn about local animals and plants
- Explore its unusual geographical features
- Visit its major museums and historical sites
- Experience different cultural celebrations
- Study differences in regional housing
- Tour art collections and galleries
Where would you take them? What things would they need
to see to understand your way of life in your region? Planning the visit
makes a great whole group activity. Writing assignments can then be
distributed to groups of students. One group can describe the trip through
the natural history museum while another writes about the exploration
of geological features of the coastline. A well-planned visit balances
informative and recreational activities.
These travel guides and trip itineraries are collected
by the sponsoring classroom in a travel section of the Journal of Places
and Perspectives. Students can send accompanying illustrations in the
Legends and Local History
What was your community like before semiconductors and
computers, laser beams and nuclear energy, airplanes and fast trains,
TVs, VCRs and video games, automobiles for everyone, and computers in
the school? Can you find someone who remembers when milkmen and doctors
made house calls? The goal of this project is to have students learn about
history by becoming local historians. This project encourages students
to talk to grandparents and other senior citizens to learn the history
of their region. These personal histories, unlike what is preserved in
history books, are rich with details about how people lived without the
many inventions and tools that students take for granted. These people
can be a rich source of information that often is lost because no one
takes the time to write down their stories. Students can provide a valuable
service to their community by collecting and writing down these local
legends so that others will be able to enjoy this rich chronicle of history.
Ideas for projects that students might sponsor:
1. What was your community like in the
past? Who lived there and why did they settle in your area? Are there
any local legends that give an historical view of your surroundings? What
was it like before all the modern buildings and forms of entertainment
2. How old is your oldest building? Can you tell us
a bit about the history of this building? Who built it and for what
purpose? What is it used for now?
3. What industries or jobs were common in the early
history of your area? How do they compare with the current industries?
What factors were responsible for the changes from these early times
4. How has education changed in your area? Can you
trace schools back to a one room school house? When was your school
built? What were the changes that made it necessary to build your school?
5. Does your area have any agricultural land? Was it
used for farming in the past? How is it used now? If it is still for
farming, how have farms and farming changed?
6. What did people do for entertainment before TV and
video? What were the major forms of entertainment before these inventions?
7. How long have families in your community had telephones?
What proportion of families have one or more phone lines? Were calls
placed over "party lines" or by operators in your area? How often did
people communicate with family in distant locations?
8. How did people travel around the local area? What
means of transportation were used for longer trips? How many people
owned cars? How often did people go on long trips?
People in different places face different risks related
to their climate and location. Adaptation results in diverse patterns
for controlling the natural environment and planning for natural disasters
like droughts, floods, fires, ice, storms, earthquakes, cold, volcanoes,
tornadoes, and hurricanes. The goal of this project is to increase student
awareness of the types of natural disasters faced in different locations
and the actions and decisions people make to minimize the possible damage
or risk associated with natural disasters.
Here is a plan for one way to sponsor a project on this
Listing Natural Disasters: Each
classroom in the Learning Circle discusses the topic of natural disasters
and creates a list of hazardous natural events that have occurred or could
occur in their area.
Evaluation Of The Risk: Students describe the
frequency of occurrence and the type of damage that is caused by each
of the disasters on their list. Students can describe past occurrences
of natural disasters in their area and provide some background on the
cause of the disaster.
Emergency Plans: Describe your school's emergency
plans in the event of a natural disaster. How are students educated
and prepared for the possible risk? What services are provided by the
city in the event of this type of disaster? Does the city have educational
programs that help citizens learn what to do to prepare for this type
Here is an example of a report from Hester Cline's students
at Highwater High School in Conastoga Station:
BACKGROUND: The Conastoga River was the main
supply route for the shipment of goods and foodstuffs to our town during
the 1700's. As a result, the town grew around the banks of the river.
Gradually, an infrastructure of roads and railways was built and the
importance of the Conastoga as a main trade route was lessened. Today,
the river is used for recreational purposes.
RISK: During extended periods of heavy rainfall,
the water level rises dramatically in the Conastoga often flooding the
surrounding town. The result is property damage ranging in the millions
and physical and emotional suffering.
SCHOOL EMERGENCY PLAN: Our school is a designated
emergency shelter and quantities of blankets, canned foods and medical
supplies are stored here. One of the issues that came up in student
council was how we could help in case of a flood. We will let you know
what we came up with.
TOWN EMERGENCY PLAN: With state and national
aid, our town has been able to rebuild but the loss of life can never
be compensated. In a prevention measure, the town has published a booklet
which outlines the steps to take in case a flood warning is issued.
It lists the addresses and phone numbers of local hospitals, Red Cross
locations and emergency shelters, outlines evacuation routes and describes
an early warning radio system.
Compare a number of aspects of life in the different regions. The sponsoring
classroom could prepare a survey for collecting information about the
areas. Students should discuss why they would want to include a particular
question. What will it tell them about other places? They might want to
predict the responses of others and then compare their predictions to
the responses that they receive. The survey might include items like the
- Time it takes to drive across the center of town during
"rush hours" and on Sunday
- Cost of off-street parking downtown for 15 mins.
- Cost of a head of lettuce in December and July
- Average Jan. and Aug. temperatures and rainfall
- Number of television stations
- Median cost of a house
- Range of cost for skateboard or bicycle
- Price of a movie ticket
- Kinds of sporting events and teams
- Cost and frequency of public transportation from downtown
to nearest airport
Business and Industries
Where you live is often influenced by the job opportunities that are available
in your region. Who are the major employers in your area? What services
or goods do they supply? What types of skills are needed to work in these
businesses? The want ads in your newspaper can be used to learn a great
deal about your area. What type of jobs are most often advertised? What
is the advertised salary of most of the jobs? Is there a minimum wage
in your country? Please take a survey of the occupations of your parents.
How many students think that they will take a job in your location? How
many students think they will need to move to a new location to follow
their career choice?
Families move for many reasons but the most common reason
is to follow employment opportunities. How many times have you moved to
a new home or to a new city? What were the reasons for your families movement
patterns? Please list the birth places of each of the students and the
number of times that they have moved. If you can, do this for the parents
and grandparents as well. What is the most common reason people in your
area give for moving to that location? Use this list to code the reason
for each of the moves:
1. To increase job opportunities
2. Work related transfer
3. To increase political freedoms or opportunities
4. To increase quality of life
5. Climate change
6. Educational opportunities
7. Family ties
Prompts for thinking about
your Places and Perspectives Circle Project
to Places and Perspectives
Margaret Riel, Copyright © 1997, Revised 2002. All rights