Home Sweet Home

Lesson: Home, Sweet, Home!
Grades: 6-12
Subject: Language Arts/History/Math/Technology/Art
Estimated Time of Completion: Five to six fifty-minute class sessions

I. Summary

Every city has buildings. Their architecture reflects the values and culture of people. The Greeks created simplistic, orderly architectural designs to reflect their desire for a disciplined life. Castles of the Medieval Ages were constructed with moats out of necessity for protection. The cathedral of the Renaissance era points to heaven and inspires reverence. Methods of building and the materials used provide important clues to when, where and why a particular building was built. Use this lesson to make students aware of the connection between history and architecture and to be inspired to learn about their own town's history.

II. Objectives

  • Students will become aware of the economic, cultural, and environmental issues that make their town unique.
  • Students will practice and improve problem-solving skills.
  • Students will collect, research and record data that will organize thinking and enhance historical thinking.
  • Students will be able to hypothesize what past life was like in their community.
  • Students will be able to discuss the history and architecture of their community.
  • By studying their town, students will develop ownership in the place they live.

III. Materials Needed

  • PBS History Detectives site
  • Optional: Computer with Internet access with a presentation device or available computers for groups of students and Internet access to the History Detectives site.
  • Equipment for recording history: cameras, camcorders, tape recorders, software such as PowerPoint and/or Excel.
  • Paper, pencil, and graph paper

IV. Procedure

1. (Class 1) The teacher will ask students to draw a map of their neighborhood, complete with a legend. Use graph paper and encourage students to use an approximate scale.

2. Ask students if they have ever put their handprints in cement or written their initials in a tree. Have them think of times that they have left their "tracks" in their neighborhoods. Ask them about their thoughts on graffiti and history. Have them write a paragraph under their drawn neighborhood map. Ask students to imagine the history of their house and include in the paragraph an educated guess of their home's age and history and provide reasons to back up their ideas of their home's history.

3. Next, talk about what and how records could help confirm owners' and age. Some students may find it beneficial to visit the History Detectives grown-ups site. Click on the story from Episode 9 of Season 1 about Philip Sheridan's House.
The description reads "To Grand Ronde locals, an abandoned Dutch Colonial Style home was of little interest. But new research suggests this house may originally have been built as Union Army officer quarters by a young Philip Sheridan, the famous General." Explain to students that documented history could live at many houses in their town.

4. Then go to the Building Background Checklist or you might find the tips for Tracking People helpful. Past owners and locating deeds to land will provide more information for determining the history of a house.

5. Have students imagine life long ago and write a journal entry from a 16th or 17th century dwelling and then one from the future comparing and contrasting living styles.

6. Provide background information about architecture. Have students bring in examples of different architecture to discuss in class. Ask students to elaborate on common clues they can look for such as the style of doors and windows. Ask students about ideas they have on historical time periods and materials used. What did culture or weather have to do with architecture?

Take a Web tour and discuss some different types of architecture:

See My Design has various pictures of architectural design through history

How house construction works

Various House Styles

7. If the specialized architectural vocabulary is a problem, direct students to an Architectural Glossary

8. (Class 2) Discuss the town together. Visit its Web site if it has one. It would be great if a guest speaker could come to talk with the students about their town's history.

9. (Class 3) Explain to the students that they will be taking a tour of their town. Students will be assigned a team comprised of four members. They will be given team jobs. One student will be the architect who will be the expert on architecture. One will be the genealogist and will be the expert on the town's ancestry. This person will make notes on reflections of culture or values of the town. Another student will be the economist making notes on reflections of the affluence or poverty of the town. The fourth student will be the researcher that will note and then follow up with any documents that could be helpful in their research.

10. Explain that students will collect data:

  • By participation in a class walking tour of a nearby residential area
  • By interviewing citizens
  • By searching out documents that will provide insight to the history of the town
  • By dividing topics of concern among the members of the members (architecture, documents, citizens, and businesses)
  • By exploring helpful primary and secondary sources from the library, History Preservation Organization, Internet records, tourist facilities, and local Chamber of Commerce.

11. The students and teacher will work together to plan how the town's history will be recorded. Each team will be given a choice or choices of how they will present their data:

  • Still pictures can be placed in a PowerPoint slide show with documentation included.
  • A tape recorder can be used to create an oral history
  • A digital video camera could be used to create a taped documentary of the town's history
  • Published historical information could be written in a narrative which is typed, edited, and printed
  • Information could be organized and put into an Excel spreadsheet

12. Review the procedures for the choices for data presentation. Students will review procedures for conducting interviews. Procedures for using any equipment must also be reviewed (cameras, video recorders, tape recorders, etc.). Any unfamiliar software may have to be taught or reviewed (Excel, Word, or PowerPoint).

13. Before the walking tour, encourage students to share with the class what has brought them to the area. If students do not know, allow time for students to ask parents and/or relatives about this.

14. (Class 4) Take the class on a tour of the residential area. Talk to students about information that is noteworthy for their project.

15. Using this tour as an opportunity to introduce their project, make some suggestions: Find architecture that reveals some history of the town. Are there many old houses or just a few? What is the tallest building in the town? Estimate the oldest building in your town. Interview an older friend, neighbor, or relative about your town. How has it changed? How did it affect the town? Does your family have original documents? What do they tell you?

16. (Class 5) Explain to the students that they will be investigating the history of their hometown to complete their team town project.

17. Tell students to discuss town history with parents, teachers, and relatives. When completing their project, have students include items that tell about the town's history: old photographs, postcards, artifacts, or paintings of past life in the town.

18. Suggest students visit the local Chamber of Commerce, library, or the local Historical Preservation organization to further research the history of the town. How and when was it founded? Where did its name originate?

19. Explain to students that the primary source for researching homes is the deed. Have students check out other tips in locating a building's history with the Building Background Checklist.

20. Remind students to look around the town for any memorials that might provide hints to the history (a statue, a street name, or the town's name). Also, have students visit the local museum if the town has one.

21. Students will share their activity with the other students in the class. This is also a great opportunity for inviting parents to share in this presentation of town projects.

V. Classroom Rubric for Assessment of a Town Project


    Town Expert   Town Advisor   Town Novice  

Excellent organization


  Fair organization   Lack of organization  
Subject Knowledge  

Demonstrates much knowledge of subject matter


  Demonstrates some knowledge of subject matter    Demonstrates a lack of knowledge of subject matter  
Provides Sources  

Provides and identifies reliable sources


  Provides or identifies sources   Provides no sources  
Demonstrates effort   Has worked throughout unit to master material, seek information, clarify sources, and to produce a final project that is original, neat, and interesting   Has mostly attempted to master material, seek information, clarify sources, and to produce a final project that is original, neat, and interesting   Could have shown more interest in mastering material, seeking information, clarifying sources, and producing a final project that is original, neat, and interesting  


VI. Extensions and Adaptations

  • Some students might enjoy playing the "Date the House" game found on the PBS History Detectives Kids site. There is also a sequencing architecture activity found in the 'It's Not Conjecture, It's Architecture" lesson plan.
  • Encourage students to identify types of architecture in their own community. Have students take pictures of local architecture, name it and its characteristics, and display these for the class.
  • Invite a local antiques dealer to speak to the class about how she identifies and/or researches items from the past.
  • Students can create copies of their oral, published, or slideshow documentation of the town history and actually sell these in a simulated business endeavor.
  • Set up a temporary "town museum" displaying collected town photographs and artifacts.
  • Visit the local museum to learn more about your town.
  • Create a timeline representing the history of your town.
  • Move from a study of the history of your town to a study of the history of your state.
  • Design a town history brochure to inform others. Encourage the local Chamber of Commerce to make these available to the public.


 VII. Standards From McREL Standards

Language Arts

  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process
  • Gathers and uses information for research purposes
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of literary texts
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of informational texts
  • Will write expository compositions (e.g., synthesizes and organizes information from first- and second-hand sources, including books, magazines, computer data banks, and the community; uses a variety of techniques to develop the main idea {names, describes, or differentiates parts; compares or contrasts; examines the history of a subject; cites an anecdote to provide an example; illustrates through a scenario; provides interesting facts about the subject}; distinguishes relative important facts, data, and ideas; uses appropriate technical terms and notations.
  • The student will use strategies to adapt writing for different purposes (e.g., to explain, inform, analyze, entertain, reflect, and persuade)


  • The student thinks chronologically; therefore the student is able to distinguish between the past, present, and future time and interpret data presented in timelines. Students can create timelines by designating appropriate equidistant intervals of time and recording of events according to the temporal order in which they occur.
  • The student thinks chronologically, therefore, the student is able to describe the past on its on terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through literature, diaries, debates, arts, artifacts, and primary and secondary documents.
  • The student conducts historical research; therefore, the student is able to formulate historical from encounters with historical documents, eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, historical sites, art, architecture, and other records from the past


  • Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines


  • Knows the characteristics and uses of computer hardware and operating systems
  • Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs
  • Understand the nature and uses of different forms of technology Math
  • Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement

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