a unit for grades 2 & 3

By: Kelli Colligan and Valerie Josephson





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Students will understand what a community is.

Students will understand that there are many different types of communities.

Students will come to understand how communities evolve over time.

Students will come to understand the importance of roles in communities, and how they are important to their community.



Before beginning this unit, there are some important questions that should be answered. First, what is a community? According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, a community is, "an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location" Thus, communities can be found scattered across the world. Who lives in a community? Almost everybody lives in a community. Communities can consist of families living together, classrooms, the workplace, neighborhoods, even cities and countries. The subject of communities is very broad and encompasses many different things.

Who are community helpers and what do they do? Community helpers are those people that work in the community to make life easier for everybody. Some examples of community helpers are: police officers, grocery store clerks, teachers, business owners, fire fighters, babysitters, janitors, and city officials. There are several community helpers in every community. All the people in a community must work together in order to accomplish their individual roles. For example, if the police officers decided not to inforce the laws, people would be more inclined to break them. This could effect every part of the community. Business owners, teachers, and janitors, to name a few, would all probably find problems with laws being broken and nobody being there to help them. Every helper with his/her responsibility is needed.

Why is it important to study about communities? It is important to study about the community you live in, as well as surrounding communities, so that you can have an awareness of the value of each individual person in a community. Everybody plays a meaningful part in his/her community. If even one person is taken away, the community is not the same. It is also important to become aware of different communities and their lifestyles and values to gain an appreciation for your own community. We can all learn great things from each other. Another reason for studying about communities is to see how communities change over time. For example, many of the things my grandparents saw as children, such as the buildings, style of homes, etc. have changed tremendously. The city I grew up in was much smaller before I was born. It was a farming community back then and has now changed into a growing city with many homes and businesses. It is important to learn about these changes so that we can see how different things are. We can learn a great deal about technology and the ever changing world by looking at our own communities.

This unit will present a variety of resources and activities that can be used to explore the community that surrounds you as well as other communities in the world.


Definition of community taken from the on-line dictionary at:





 Web Sites

Community Resources 

Children's Literature 




These are some sites we found to be useful. They contain great information.
This site had a good idea about creating a brochure about their community.
This site had a good idea about living a time line. This is an event that takes place where students can celebrate the various important events that have taken place in their community.
This site explains the process of creating a cloth mural that teaches about a community.
This site gives an idea about building a model of the community with various odds and ends. By including this, art could be brought into the unit.
This site had an idea of interviewing someone from a different community and being able to understand the ways that communities can be different and the ways that they may be the same.
We were excited to find this site. It had a good way of helping students to understand the way that the city government works by having them involved in a mock town meeting.
This site has a great lesson plan on helping children realize their importance in the community. It incorporated art with social studies.
This is a lesson plan for discovering why communities tend to build themselves by water. It also incorporates art.
This site had many links to stories about Native American communities. It was very helpful!


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You can get many people to come into your classroom to discuss their role in the community. These people may include:
Fire Fighter
Police Officer
Grocery Store Clerk
Business person
City Officials
Lunch Room Worker
Floral Shop Owner

Field Trips:
There are many possibilities for field trips you can take to get to know your community.
Here are some of the suggestions we came up with:
Neighborhood Park
Grocery Store
Fire Station
Police Station


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MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Harper, 1985.
This is a great story about a woman from Maine who comes to live with the Witting family on their farm in Kansas. It gives great details about both communities.

Moorcraft, Colin. Homes and Cities. Aladdin Books, 1982.
This book talks about homes and cities and the energy we use.

Lomas Garza, Carmen. Family Pictures. Children's Book Press, 1990.
This book is about the author's experiences in growing up in a Hispanic community in Texas. It includes Spanish.

Tax, Meridith. Families. Illustrated by Marilyn Hafner. Little, Brown, 1981.
This book is about different kinds of families.

Shelby, Anne. Homeplace. Illustrated by Wendy Anderson. Orchard Books, 1995.
This is a book about how families evolve over time and what each generation is like.

Baylor, Byrd. The Best Town in the World. Illustrated by Ronald Himler. Scribner, 1983.
This is a book in which a father convinces his son that the best town in the world is where he grew up. Everything in his town was better than anywhere else. The water was better, the food was better, and the people were better. Are there other perfect towns?

Hall, Donald. Ox-Cart Man. Illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Scholastic, Inc., 1991.
This book tells about the importance of a family working together to provide for themselves. It also shows how much communities have changed over the years, but are still the same in some ways.

Arnold, Caroline. What is a Community?. Photography by Carol Bertol. Franklin Watts, 1982.
This book describes the different types of work that is available in a community, and the importance of each job. It also tells about the contributions that children make to help build a community.

Spier, Peter. People. Doubleday, 1980.
This book celebrates the differences and similarities of people. It helps you to appreciate the fact that everybody is not the same.

Saul, Wendy. Butcher, Baker, Cabinetmaker. Photography by Abigail Heyman. Crowell, 1978.
This book helps people to realize all of the jobs that women can do. From coal miner to senator, they can do anything they set their minds to.

Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt. Simon & Schuster, 1988.
This is a book that describes a family who immigrated from Russia to the United States. It describes the ways that they were able to keep some of their traditions even though they were far away from the home they knew.

Van Allsburg, Chris. Just a Dream. Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
This is a story about a young boy who doesn't care about his environment. He has a dream that helps him learn the importance of taking care of it. When he wakes up, he is glad that it was just a dream.

Fox, Mem. Feathers and Fools. Illustrated by Nicholas Wilton. Harcourt Brace, 1996.
This is about a group of peacocks and swans who do not accept one another's differences. They live in fear of each other, afraid that the others will attack. Each prepares weapons to defend themselves, and the results are disastrous. The baby swan and peacock start anew by accepting the differences they see in each other.

Polocco, Patricia. The Bee Tree. Philomel Books, 1993.
This is about a girl who doesn't like to read. Her grandfather has a plan to help her understand how to enjoy reading. The whole community gets in on the tradition, and the girl begins to enjoy reading.


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 Everybody is Important
 What is Found in a Community?
 Workers in the Community
 Laws and Rules
 Caring for the Community (Each other and the Environment)
 Other Communities
 How Communities Change Over Time
 Accepting Differences in the Community


 Culminating Activites


Everybody is Important:

*The teacher will show students pictures of each of the instruments in the symphony and have musical examples of what each of the instruments sound like as well as a whole symphony playing a piece. This can be related to a community. Every part is important, and the final product will not be the same without even one of the instruments. Materials: pictures, recordings. Time: 1 hour

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What is Found in a Community?

*Students will have a sheet listing things that can be found in the community. They should take it home and find where each thing can be found. Examples would be things like flowers, or graves, etc. Materials: worksheet. Time: 1-2 hours outside of school.

*Have students visit a farm to see where and how their food is grown. Materials: permission slips, parent chaperones, bus. Time: 3-4 hours

*Take a field trip to the local grocery store. Learn about where the different foods come from and why they are sold in stores. Materials: permission slips, bus, information on agriculture. Time: 2 hours

*Take a field trip to the zoo. Discuss animal communities and how they differ from people communities. An example would be to look at the monkeys and talk about where they live, how they communicate, how they get their food, etc. Materials: permission slips, bus, parent chaperones. Time: 4 hours

*Have students take a field trip to a community event to see how the arts add to the community. Materials: permission slips, chaperones, bus, tickets. Time: 3-4 hours

*Teach students various dances from different places and cultures around the world as well as dances from their own communities. Talk about where they came from, and what importance entertainment has in a community. Have a recital. Materials: Various music and dances from the world. Time: 5-10 hours

*Tell the students that someone who does not live in their community was wondering what their community has to offer if they were to visit. Have students design a brochure that highlights their community. An example of traveler brochures may be helpful to give students ideas. Materials: Paper, crayons, brochures. Time: 2-3 hours

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Workers in the Community:

*The teacher will read the book What Will Be From A to Z, by Donald L. Gelb. Discuss with students the importance of each role in building and maintaining a successful community. Have the janitor visit with students about his/her role, and how students can help. Volunteer to help the janitor with a task. Materials: Book. Time: 2-3 days (1 hour the first day, volunteer time the second)

*Ask around for parents or people in the community to come in and talk about what they do in the community. Have students prepare to ask questions. Materials: Volunteers. Time: 5 days (1 hour each day)

*Have a city official come to the classroom to talk about what their job is in the community. Materials: city official Time: 1 hour.

*Have students select a community helper that they would like to research about. The following day, have students come to school dressed like their person. Give students time and resources they need to write some interesting facts about them, and then present them to the class. Materials: Information about various occupations. Time: 2-3 days.

*The purpose of this activity is to show how different departments in a community work together. Separate the classroom into groups and assign different jobs to each group. For example, one group can be the mayor's office, one group can be the fire department, etc. Have students find out as much as they can about their particular departments. Create scenarios in which students have to think about who is involved in certain issues. Materials: Info about departments, scenarios. Time: 3-4 hours

*Create jobs for everybody in the classroom along with a money system. If students do their jobs, they will get paid and then must pay their bills. Materials: money, jobs, bill sheets. Time: 5 days

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Laws and Rules:

*Have students play a game in which the rules are different for each team. (Don't tell them that the rules are different, just give each team the rules and have them play each other.) After the students figure out that there is a problem, have them tell you what they need to change to make the game work out best for both teams. Divide the students into groups and have them develop a graphic organizer that depicts reasons why they feel rules are important. Play the game again, this time with rules that are fair. Materials: Things needed for chosen game, paper, crayons. Time: 1 hour.

*Talk about government and have students set up their own government in the classroom. Talk about what positions there should be and what a government is. Hold an election and elect a president, people for congress, etc. Let the students pass "laws" and see what it is like to try and make the rules fair for everybody. Time: 1-2 weeks.

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Caring for the Community (Each Other and the Environment):

*Have everyone bring a container from their home that they can make a building for their town out of. Assign each student a business that they are the owners of. This should create their own little community. Create scenarios for the mini-community to go through. Draw a card each day that describes an incident that occurs in the town. Discuss what the community would do to help in each situation. Materials: scissors, staplers, construction paper, glue, paint, a piece of cardboard that the town can be built on. Time: 1 hr. the first day, 5 min. each day until everybody has had a situation that involves their business.

*Go on a walk around the community. Have students decide on something that they observed that they could do to help improve their community. Allow students to share their observations. Materials: Permission slips, parent volunteers, warm clothing if needed. Time: 1-2 hrs.

*Read Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg. Ask the students why they thought that the boy was glad that the dream wasn't true. Have the students go out on the play ground to pick up trash. Have students write a letter to the janitor to thank him/her for helping to keep their school clean. Materials: Book, paper, pencils, garbage bags. Time: 1 hr.

*Have students bring clean, safe trash to school from their homes for a few days. Dump the trash around the room when students are not around. When they come in the room will be a mess. Generate a discussion with the students about the importance of keeping our communities clean and recycling. Have the students create something out of the trash that is spread around the room. Materials: Clean, safe trash, stapler, glue, paint. Time: 2 hrs.

*Take students to a park to have them clean up and see how important it is to keep the community free from litter. Talk about why they need to clean the parks and how they can prevent them from becoming dirty in the future. Materials: park. Time: 2 hours

*Read the book The Bee Tree, by Patricia Polacco. In the story, the citizens of the community are brought together. Ask the students to think of activities that their community does together. Have the students draw a picture of their favorite community activity. Materials: book, paper, crayons. Time: 1 hr.

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Other Communities:

*Read the poem, "The City Mouse Lives in a House," by Christina Georgina Rossetti. Generate a discussion to help students understand the differences between a rural, urban, country, and a village community. Have students draw a picture about the kind of community they would like to live in, with some of the surroundings that would be found there. Have them share their picture with the class and tell about why they would choose to live in that specific area. Materials: paper, crayons. Time: 1 hr.

*Arrange for a visitor to come and talk about the community that he/she is from. Allow time at the end for students to ask questions so that they are able to compare their own community with that of another. When the visitor leaves, generate a discussion about what is necessary for a community to have. Materials: None. Time: 1 hr.

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How Communities Change Over Time:

*Read the book The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton. Explain to the students that while the community changes, people do to. Invite all of the students to bring something from home that reminds them of an event that happened in their past, such as a picture or special item. Let them know that the class will display them on a bulletin board titled, "The Past." Explain to the students that the community will continue to change. Invite the students to predict what changes they may see in the future of their community. Explain that they will change also. Have students write what they think they will be doing five years from now. Display these on a bulletin board entitled, "The Future." Materials: Book, paper, pencils, note to parents. Time: 1 hr.

*The teacher will discuss how a time-line works. Have a variety of information displayed within the classroom. Allow the students to explore historical events of their community through displays of artifacts. Invite a senior citizen who has lived in the community for a long time to talk about the changes that he/she has seen in the community over time. Divide into groups and create a time line of the community. Materials: Artifacts from the past, senior citizen visitor, paper, pencils. Time: 1-2 hours.

*Have students interview people in their community who have been there for a long time to find out the history of their town. Materials: questions for students to ask, older people. Time: 2 hours outside of school.

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Accepting Differences in the Community:

*Read The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco. Explain that traditions of people from other cultures may be different than their own. Generate a discussion about the importance of respecting their traditions so that everyone can live in peace. Ask students to think about some of the traditions that they would take with them if they moved to a different country. Have students draw a picture of the country they would like to visit. Next have them make a suitcase out of paper so that they can "pack their traditions" that they would take with them. (Written on strips of paper) Materials: Book, paper, pencils, construction paper, crayons. Time: 1 hr.

*Read the book Feathers and Fools, by Mem Fox. After reading it, generate a discussion of observations that they made about why some people don't accept each other. Ask them to talk about the lesson that the book was trying to teach. Have them think of someone who is not accepted in their school and write down five ways they can help that person feel more accepted. Role play some of the things that they wrote. Materials: Book, paper, pencils. Time: 1 hr.

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*Show a simple map. Show how the map key works. Explain to students that people who design maps can use any symbol to represent certain locations. Ask them why they may need to use a map. Have a group of students design a map of a location at the school (like a treasure map). Have another group try to find the location that was intended. Switch roles. Have the class decide on one thing that they liked about each map. Materials: Paper, crayons. Time: 1-2 hrs.

*Talk about different communities. Show students maps of the different places and have them locate things that their community has in common with each of them. Discuss why that is. Materials: Maps. Time: 45 minutes.


Culminating Activities:

*Have students create a community for life on the moon. Tell them that they must put everything in that community that other communities have. They must build a model. This activity can be a whole-class project, or a small group project. Materials: Things to make models with. Time: 5-10 hrs.

*Have students write a play about a community, They can perform it for parents after writing and rehearsing. This can also be a class or small group project. Materials: Costumes, sets, etc. Time: 5-10 hrs.

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