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Lesson Plans - Neighborhoods

The Fillmore

Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco

TITLE: What is a neighborhood?


GRADES: 11-12

  • Language Arts
  • Creative Writing





  • In these activities, students will be asked to think about the neighborhoods in which they live, to consider what exactly makes up a neighborhood, and the current issues their neighborhood may be facing.
  • The Fillmore, part 4 of The Neighborhoods of San Francisco
  • the World Wide Web

Have students:

  1. Define: Neighborhood, Community, Demographics
    Neighborhoods are part of a larger civic body, the many parts make up an entire city. Neighborhoods have different characteristics, which evolve over a period of time. Some questions for discussion:

    • What is the difference, if any, between a neighborhood and a community?
    • What is the importance of a neighborhood?
    • Have there been large demographic shifts in who has lived in your neighborhood over the years?
    • What groups lived there and when?

Ask students to think about the neighborhood in which they live. Assign a minimum three-page essay:

  • Create a portrait of your neighborhood, using the following questions as a guide.
  • Describe your neighborhood. Where is it exactly?Who lives there?Are there people of different ages and ethnicities? Are there people who have lived there for a long time, any newcomers?
  • What do you like best about your neighborhood? What do you dislike? What parts of it would you want to keep or change? What would be your ideal neighborhood?
  • What changes have you seen or do you see going on now in your neighborhood? If there are changes going on in your neighborhood, such as development, or concerns about the environment, are your neighbors fighting for or against change? Describe the issues that are being fought over. What do you think of their struggle? Why?
  • What is an issue that would motivate you to join in a neighborhood cause? Describe any organizations which have been created to assist people who live in your neighborhood with legal services, health care, or grassroots activism, etc. What kinds of businesses exist in your neighborhood, if any? Who owns the businesses? Are there banks, liquor stores, video stores, etc.? How do these businesses impact the neighborhood in a positive or negative way, and why?
  • What kinds of transportation do people take in your neighborhood? If there is no public transportation, such as buses, how do young people and the elderly get around? Does public transportation serve your neighborhood well? Is it on time, convenient, clean and safe? How do you get to school?
  • Testimonials: Listen to Fillmore residents who lived in the neighborhood for the better part of this century: people like Doris Morimoto, Lloyd Federlein, and Charles Collins, and read some of their memories.

Community mapping:

  • If time allows, students can do the following exercise, which is a valuable way to illustrate their neighborhood and tell their story to other students. Students can map out a three or four block area around their home or school. Label each business, who owns the business and for how long. Students can compare and contrast maps from different neighborhoods; or compare their map of the same neighborhood created by their fellow students.
  • Find a familiar neighborhood face, someone who has lived in your neighborhood for a long time, and set up an informal interview with them (an older family member is fine). How long have they lived there? What changes have they seen? Do they think the changes are positive or negative? Did they participate in the evolution of the neighborhood?
  • Find someone who is new to your neighborhood. What do they think about the neighborhood? Why did they move into it? Do they know any of its history? Are they planning on staying awhile?
  • Videotape
    • Students can make a video of the people they interviewed for the research exercise. Include footage of landmarks described in the person's story, or insert family photographs taken in the neighborhood.
  • Volunteer at one of the community organizations that attempts to improve conditions in your neighborhood. This is a good way for students to learn more about the issues that their neighborhood is facing, and a way to learn about possible career options. Students could write a report on their participation in the community agency, complete with web research on the issues they dealt with and links to other sites dealing with similar problems.

This lesson addresses the following national content standards found in the McRel Standards Database:

Grades K-12:

11. Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society.

Language Arts:
4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes.

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