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Discussion & activities

Use these activities before, during, or after your video-based lesson on Creating Community.

If you haven't read our Tips for using video in the classroom, we suggest you take a look there first, then come back here to choose materials to construct your lesson.

Folks in Community

FYI

Peopling Pittsburgh
Community & culture
Family & faith
Individuals and heroes

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Discussion & Activities<
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Discussion

 

Community-related discussion and activities in other units

Learning Activities

Neighborhoods:


Heroes

bullet What makes a hero?

discussion about what makes a hero

bullet Interview a neighborhood hero

Find a neighborhood hero (see discussion about what makes a hero), then interview them to find out more about what makes them so special. Use this Oral History Interview process to learn how to conduct your interview: Asking the right questions will help you get better stories and not just "yes," "no," and "uh-huh" answers! Be sure to get a signed release form so you can save the tape and use quotes from the interview.

bullet Hall of Neighborhood Heroes

Research a hero in your neighborhood (either present or past), then tell your hero's story in a magazine article, video story, mural, oral story, epic poem or play. Work with your language arts or visual/media arts teachers to find out more about the special requirements for the form of storytelling you've chosen.

Honor your hero by nominating him or her to our Hall of Neighborhood Heroes (coming soon). Write a short form of your hero's story to submit for to the Hall of Heroes. You may also upload a picture (photo or drawing) of your hero. Be sure to get a signed release form for living heroes.

 

Family and Faith

bullet Saving Faith

Draw or photograph the old churches or temples in your community. Research their history by interviewing older members or clergy using the oral history interview above and finding more facts in documentary sources. Submit your picture and a few paragraphs about your house of faith to our online Saving Faith Gallery (coming soon).

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bullet Ethnic Edibles

Talk to family members to find the favorite foods from your cultural background. What are the dishes people remember eating when they were growing up? What were the favorite dishes? ..the least favorite? Does your family still eat these dishes? Why or why not? What stories are told about special foods in your family?

Collect the recipes for some of these favorite foods, past and present. If your older relatives still make these dishes by the "little bit of this-little bit of that" method without a written, ask if they will teach you how to make the dish. Then you can try to write down the process that future cooks can use. You might also scan any old copies of recipes that have been written down. Find out more about the traditions surrounding this food:

  • When was this dish eaten (what meal, day of the week, Esc)? How often? Was it served at any special times (holidays, birthdays, when someone was sick, Sabbath meals, etc.)
  • Who prepared the dish?
  • What was served with it?
  • Where did the ingredients come from?
  • Who especially loved or hated this dish?
  • What memories does this food bring back?

If you find a good recipe or a great ethnic food story, email it to Chris Fennimore--you might find it on the "QED Cooks" television show or "C is for Cooks" Pittsburgh Magazine column!

 

Culture and Community

bullet Nationality Rooms Symbol Search

The Nationality Rooms in Pitt's Cathedral of Learning are rich treasure chests of the best of 26 cultures, represented by images and symbols from the highest points of their civilizations. The Nationality Room Symbol Search sends students on a mission to discover those symbols and hypothesize about their meaning either online or during an actual tour of the Rooms.

Begin with a brief introduction of the concept of symbols by asking students to give examples of symbols of the United States (flag, eagle, Great Seal of the United States, Uncle Sam, the figure of Liberty, the Capitol, the White House, etc.). Ask them what those symbols mean, and what their purpose is, and where they are used. Almost all nations, religions, cultures, and organizations have symbols that have taken on special meanings because they stand for important shared values.

When the Nationality Rooms were built, many national and religious symbols were incorporated into their designs by proud descendants of their cultures. Try to find them and interpret them on your tour of the Rooms or play our online match-up game Nationality Room Symbol Search (version 4 or higher browsers required). Or if you can visit the Nationality Rooms, play the Symbol Search game in person:

Preparation: Print out the paper versions of the 40 cards included here preferably with a color printer on stiff paper and cut them apart.

Procedure:

  • Deal one or two of the cards (there are 40 cards) to each member of your group or class.
  • While on your tour of the Nationality Rooms, ask them to find the symbols or details pictured on their cards.
  • Write the name of the Room were the symbols was found on the back of each card.
  • Teachers may email WQED's Learning Center for a key by return email. Alternatively, assign students in groups of 2 or 3 and require that they confirm each others' sightings.

You might follow-up your search for symbols with the discussion and art activities in Symbol-eyes.

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Pittsburgh Neighborhoods

bullet Walking Tour of Oakland

Take yourself on a self-guided two-hour loop of Pittsburgh's "second Downtown" to see two universities, libraries, museums, houses of worship and lots of interesting things along the way! See our directions and tour and a route map.

 

bullet Oakland Treasure Hunt

On your next family or field trip to Oakland, arm everyone with something to look for in this visually rich cultural neighborhood. This activity makes an ideal companion to the Self-Guided Walking Tour of Oakland above. You might also pair it with Nationality Rooms Symbol Search above.

Preparation: Print out the 52 cards included here preferably with a color printer on stiff paper and cut them apart.

Procedure:

  • Deal two or more Oakland Treasure Hunt cards (there are 52 cards) to each member of your group or class.
  • While walking through Oakland, ask them to find the building details and symbols pictured on their cards (they include some interiors as well exteriors).
  • Write the street address where the photo was found on the back of each card and mark the card number on the appropriate place on a map of Oakland.
  • Teachers may email WQED's Learning Center for a key by return email. Alternatively, assign students in groups of 2 or 3 and require that they confirm each others' sightings.
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bullet North Side Virtual Tour

Visit the North Side right here on the web! Explore our interactive map of the North Side, adapted from a Pittsburgh Magazine (illustration courtesy of David Coulson).

What similar places can you find in your neighborhood? What places are unique to the North Side?

Make a list of North Side assets you would use to "sell" the North Side to someone just moving to Pittsburgh from out-of-town. Write an ad for the North Side to promote it as a place for a business or family to relocate to.

Make a list of "things the North Side needs" that you would present to City Council or the Chamber of Commerce to make this neighborhood an even better place to live and work. Write a letter to the editor or a council member to propose what you think are the most important improvements you would suggest.

You can can arrange a guided walking tour of the North Side by emailing or calling Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundations' Education Coordinator (412-481-5808).

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bullet South Side Flats Scavenger Hunt

Go on a walking tour of the South Side Flats. This neighborhood is part of the Mainstreet Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation because it is one of the longest and best preserved Victorian neighborhoods in the country! Hunt for architectural details and mark where you've found them on a map of the Southside. This activity is provided by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. You can can arrange a guided walking tour of the South Side by emailing or calling PHLF's Education Coordinator (412-481-5808).

Preparation: Print out the paper versions of the 50 cards included here preferably with a color printer on stiff paper and cut them apart.

Procedure:

  • Deal two or more South Side cards (there are 50 cards) to each member of your group or class.
  • While walking through the neighborhood, ask them to find the building details pictured on their cards.
  • Write the street address where the photo was found on the back of each card and mark the card number on the appropriate place on a map of the South Side.
  • Teachers may email PHLF's Education Coordinator for a key by return email. Alternatively, assign students in groups of 2 or 3 and require that they confirm each others' sightings.
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bullet Strip District Stroll

Take your class on a stroll through the The Strip District from 17th through 21 Streets. This activity is provided by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. You can can arrange a guided walking tour of the The Strip District with additional activities by emailing or calling PHLF's Education Coordinator (412-481-5808).

Preparation: Download and print out the Strip District Stroll map (37k) in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. Print in "landscape" mode on legal size paper and choose "fit on page" in your print settings. Distribute one to each student.

Before your tour (or simply as a class activity if you don't plan on making a tour):

  • Read Pittsburgh Magazine article "Uncovering Secrets of The Strip" by producer Rick Sebak and watch some of the related video segments from The Strip Show.
  • Try to mark some of the places mentioned on in the article or on the video on the map.

During your tour:

  • As you tour, think about the strengths of The Strip, its needs, and problems that it has. Keep a list of these strengths and needs on the tour map in the spaces provided.
  • Mark the each building on the map as one you would "save" or "demolish" if you were trying to solve some of the problems The Strip has while keeping its strengths. Mark good examples of good signage that you find. (Use the symbols in the map key.)
  • Take a picture of some of the vacant structures you would like to see put to a new use.
  • List each ethnic group represented in the shops in The Strip (remember to check inside -- many stores represent many groups!).

After your tour:

  • Make a class list of the strengths of The Strip, its needs, and problems that it has.
  • Design a new use for the vacant structure you photographed in the Recycle, Reuse activity.
  • Find on the globe or world map the nations the various ethnic groups came from that you discovered in The Strip. Is there a concentration in one area or another? Why might that be?
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Your community

bullet Cartoon map mural of your neighborhood

Visit the our interactive map of the North Side, adapted from a Pittsburgh Magazine (illustration courtesy of David Coulson), then make one of your neighborhood.

  1. Find a map of your neighborhood. Download maps of Pittsburgh Neighborhoods at the City Planning site. Outside of Pittsburgh, you may wish to contact your municipality of a map (find contact information for Allegheny County municipalities on the county site). Locate geological maps and aerial views of your area by searching the Terraserver: http://terraserver.microsoft.com/
  2. Isolate your neighborhood and enlarge that section of the map on to mural paper.
  3. Take a walking tour of your area if possible. Note any important features for a neighborhood map.
  4. List the most important features to include on the map
  5. Assign partners two or three features to research, then illustrate cartoon style and write an explanatory caption.
  6. Glue the feature to its location on the map. Key with a number and attach the numbered caption alongside the map.

 

bullet Uncovering Secrets

Read the Pittsburgh Magazine article "Uncovering Secrets of The Strip" by producer Rick Sebak and watch some of the related video segments from The Strip Show. What secrets are hiding in your neighborhood? Every community has them, you just have to find them! Get everyone in the class involved in uncovering the secrets. Here are a few ways to track them down:

Have the class list on the chalkboard some things they've always wondered about your part of town. (Why do train tracks run right through the center of town? Why do the streets parallel to the tracks have stop signs, but those perpendicular to them, do not?) Identify people who might know the answers and assign students to interview them.

  • Ask older adults in town about things that used to be, but are gone now. Find pictures and stories to reconstruct them! (You can also contribute these secrets to our Stuff that's Gone Gallery(coming soon).)
  • Ask other people in the community what they've always wondered about. (What is that little building down by the river? What was ____ Street named for? What did that rusty old machine do?)
  • Ask older adults their most vivid memory about your community. What has changed the most about town? What surprises them most about your neighborhood today? What was the community most noted for in the past? How did it make it's living? How did it have fun?
  • After you've collected some "secrets" do as much research about each as you can though oral history, library research, checking back issues of community newspapers. Write up the secrets and illustrate them with contemporary photos, if possible, or find historical illustrations like old photos, newspaper clippings, or maps.

Publish your secrets!

  • Talk to the local newspaper to see if they'd be interested in publishing your secrets and illustrations.
  • Create an exhibit for your school or a local gathering place like a bank or municipal building.
  • Create a web page about the secrets you discover! Let us know and we'll link to it!
  • Film your own video documentary about your communities secret stories and treasures. See Rick Sebak's "How we make these shows" article for tips on telling the video story of a community.
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