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Creating Community: Home and Heritage  


The citizen must love, become part of, his city; if he does not, all the money poured into the new schemes and the bright multitudinous plans of the planners will avail nothing.
James Van Trump, 1963

What makes a mere place a home? People! Individuals live in familes who create cultures who gather in communities who settle in neighbohoods. Traditions and heroes help cultures pass on their beliefs and values. It's not always a harmonious process, but we do our best to live together.

Related subjects: Social studies, language arts

Grade levels: Adaptable 3-12 grades

FYI: Background article

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Visit any Pittsburgh neighborhood and your best bet is to let the "locals" tell you where to shop, where to eat, what to tour. That's because the locals don't just 'know' a neighborhood; they invented it. Yet, surprisingly often, you can stump the locals by asking about a place or a person they never hear of-- right in their own backyards! Why?

Neighborhoods are places, but communities are something much different. Many communities, cultures, and subcultures can live in the same place at the same time, sometimes interacting, sometimes barely aware of each other. A mix of cultures and communities is what makes neighborhoods such complex and wonderful places. And together that patchwork of neighborhoods makes the Pittsburgh we call home, as producer Rick Sebak likes to sign off his shows.

The Pittsburgh History Series is a great way to explore the complexity of diverse cultures coming together to create ever-widening circles of community. Families are the smallest unit of culture and where we all learn what is expected of us as members of our cultural communities. The cultures our families belong to may be based on religious faith, political affiliation, ethnic origin, shared interests, or even common crises. Fraternal organizations, churches, and newspapers, help communities preserve their culture and customs.

Widening the circle further, we find that communities gather together in a place and create neighborhoods. In their neighborhood, people--not always from the same communities-- come together to create stores, services, transportation, and public institutions to meet their physical needs. Try as we might to avoid it, unfortunately, when cultures and communities come together to live in one place, there is sometimes conflict. (In fact, Pittsburgh was founded in just such a conflict!)

Because they are so visible tucked into the valleys or perched on the hilltops, we'll start our exploration of "community" by looking at neighborhoods. Then wewill move further into those concentric circles -- neighborhood > community > culture > family > individual -- to find out how they make us feel like we "belong" at "home."


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