In this lesson, students use the mixed media masterpiece by Jeannie Baker to take a detailed look at how people can transform their communities. From urban blight to urban paradise, the gradual unfolding of home and community takes place under Baker’s masterful designs. The text is wordless, so children work out and tell the story as they go. It is a challenge, but they love it and are drawn into the story through their own efforts to understand the images. I use the same text in Grade 3’s Urban Planning unit, but this version is adapted for younger students.
To understand that people’s actions influence the communities in which they live and that it is possible to create a lovely neighborhood through hard work and care for the environment. (AASL 3.1.5, “Connect learning to community issues.”)
Working individually, make a simple sketch to show how an unkept urban neighborhood can become an attractive and healthy neighborhood. (Key Concepts: Change and Responsibility.)
Welcome the children. Ask them to tell you about some of the things they have been learning in their Unit of Inquiry on communities. Remind them that they have learned both about people and places in communities. Explain that in today’s lesson, they will take a close look at a city neighborhood that was not a nice place to live. But, something happened, and the community changed. Ask the children to look carefully at the pictures. They should look for what has changed in the community and what caused it to change.
Inform the children that the book has no words, so they will need to provide the dialogue to tell the story.
Teach Home by Jeannie Baker. If you can enlarge the pictures, please do. The mixed media images are full of intricate detail, and the better the children can see the city, the easier it will be for them to make contributions to the discussion.
For each two-page spread, the reader is looking through a window at the city beyond. There are two-page spreads representing approximately 24 years. Discuss each of the illustrations with the children. Let them look and see what is going on in the picture and what changes from picture to picture.
- Couple w/newborn: (Old fence, concrete, roads, urban blight, neighbor planting a bush.)
- Toddler Child: (Green grass in the yard. Baby pool, neighbor’s bush has grown.)
- Tracy at 4: (New fence, play area, curious neighbor boy.)
- Tracy at 6: (Garden path, neighbor gives Tracy a plant.)
- Tracy at 8: (Part of old fence removed, Tracy is gardening, Old man and boy planting a tree across the street in the abandoned lot.)
- Tracy at 10: (Lot across the street is now a gathering spot. Graffitti gone. “Reclaim Your Street” sign.)
- Tracy at 12: (Garden replacing concrete across the street. Tracy’s garden flourishing. Neighbor making a new wall.)
- Tracy at 14: (Tracy discovers make-up, her garden is thriving. Birds, children, elderly enjoying safe outdoor spaces.)
- Tracy at 16: (Park and lake in distance. Tracy has a boyfriend.)
- Tracy at 18: (Tracy is considering universities.)
- Tracy at 20: (Red-haired boy is the new friend. Neighborhood looking healthy and green.)
- Tracy at 22: (Tracy gets married in her neighborhood.)
- Tracy at 24: (Tracy and her husband welcome their own baby to a much different neighborhood.)
Pass out the student assignment sheet and ask the children to make a drawing that shows an urban neighborhood they believe would be an attractive and healthy community space.
Extension Class Project. Using a paper roll, sketch the basic outline of a simple city. During breaks and in free time, have the children transform the community just as Ms. Baker does in her books. This would be a project that might stretch a week or two, but if you have a table to dedicate to the effort and some scraps of cloth, paper, twigs, sandpaper, etc. the kids could make their own mixed media neighborhood. They could add trees, birds, potted gardens, murals, lakes, sculpture, lawns, playgrounds, children, just as Ms. Baker did in her text.
As the lesson wraps up, ask the children why the people worked so hard to change their neighborhood. Was their result worth the effort? What is our responsibility as citizens and neighbors? Should we wait for someone else to make a nice neighborhood for us, or should we contribute to the effort? What do you think you can do to make a positive difference in your own community? (Key Concept: Responsibility)
- Copy of Home by Jeannie Baker. (In the UK Market the book was sold under the title Belonging.)
- Student Handout (attached).
- Paper, pencils, and art supplies to support your extension project.
If you have already used this book in another lesson, use another of Ms. Baker’s mixed media books. She has several that could be adapted for this lesson within the Communities Unit of Inquiry.
Recommended books for this lesson:
Home by Jeannie Baker. (In the UK Market the book was sold under the title Belonging.)
Urban Renewal, Cities, Neighborhoods, Neighbors, Plants, Home, Families, Change, Responsibility