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Urban Planning, City Design #2: Home, by Jeannie Baker

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students use the mixed media masterpiece by Jeannie Baker to take a detailed look at how common 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 for them, but they love it and are drawn into the story through their own efforts to construct the story.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



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.”)

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

As a class, create a chart, Padlet, or Mind Map to show how the neighborhood changed over time.  (Key Concepts:  Change  and Responsibility.)

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Welcome the children.  Ask them to tell you about some of the things they have been learning in their Unit of Inquiry on communities.  In today’s lesson, we will take a close look at a city neighborhood that was not a nice place to live.  But, something happened and the community changed.   As we work our way through the story, look carefully at the pictures.  Try to figure out what has changed in the community and why you think it has changed.

Inform the children that the story has no words, so they will need to provide the words to tell the story.

Organize the class mind map, Padlet, or chart so that the children can contribute their ideas.

2. Main:

Teach Home by Jeannie Baker.  If you have a way to enlarge the pictures, please do so.  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, you are looking through a window at the city beyond.  There are two-page spreads for approximately 24 years.  Ask the students to make a few notes about each period in Tracy’s life, using the Student Handout (attached).

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.)

Extension For Older Students:

Ask for one paragraph that addresses the question, “What is our responsibility in creating attractive, healthy, comfortable communities?”

Extension For Younger Students:

Give them a simple drawing of a house, and ask them to transform it into a more livable place.

Extension Class Project:

Using a paper roll, or an A1-sized piece of paper, sketch a window like Ms. Baker uses in her books.  Outside, draw a bleak 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 one table to dedicate to the effort and some scraps of cloth, paper, twigs, sand, etc. the kids would make their own mixed media neighborhood.


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 neighborhood?  (Key Concept:  Responsibility)

  1. Copy of Home by Jeannie Baker. (In the UK market, the book was sold under the title Belonging.)
  2. Copies of Student Handout (attached).
  3. Flipchart paper or projected Padlet, to record class ideas.
  4. Paper, pencils, and art supplies to support your extension project.

I worked with one teacher who liked to have her students do a writing extension after working with this text.  Feelings of home or belonging are often part of the pastoral program at many international schools, and she had them do a piece of creative writing to address this topic.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. Copy of Home by Jeannie Baker. (In the UK Market, the book was sold under the title Belonging.)
Key Terms:

Urban Renewal, Cities, Neighborhoods, Neighbors, Plants, Home, Belonging, Families, Change, Responsibility


Student Handout, Home, by Jeannie Baker