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TPS Quarterly

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Investigating the Building Blocks of Our Community’s Past, Present and Future


This activity is intended to introduce a project-based learning unit on the built environment—all buildings, spaces and products created or modified by people. Students analyze a historic map of their local community to better understand its evolving built environment, and identify questions for research based on findings. The class develops a plan for investigating how their local community’s built environment reflects its past, present and future.

Project-based learning extension ideas include facilitating a community walking tour led by a local historian and hosting a culminating community event for students to share their primary source-based research.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • analyze a map as a primary source;
  • locate and describe components of the built environment using a historic map; and,
  • develop a plan for investigating a variety of primary sources to better understand how their local built environment reflects their community’s past, present and future.

Time Required

One to two 45-minute class periods; activity extension ideas require additional class periods

Recommended Grade Range



Architecture, Landscape; Cities, Towns; Maps




Standards & Benchmarks

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective


Standard 4. (Understands the physical and human characteristics of place

Standard 6. Understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions


Adapted from “Windows on Waynesburg, Windows on Your Town,” a unit plan created by Andrea Buchanan, a participant in the TPS program at Waynesburg University, Pennsylvania.

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