iEARN - CIVICS Project


Guidelines for Teachers

Map your community



You will identify your community’s assets and needs and define a project to work on to meet a need.




•Pen and paper for each pair of participants.

•Large piece of paper divided into two columns – one titled Community Assets and the other titled Community Needs; markers




(This activity may need to be split into two different sessions, one for the neighborhood walk and one for the discussion)


1. Agree upon what your group will identify as their community or neighborhood (e.g., the school campus, the school campus and five block radius, youth center and area within X,Y, and Z streets).


2.Walking in pairs, conduct a tour of the selected area and identify key places, organizations, and institutions in the community. Questions to consider: Where do people congregate? What are the most important businesses in the area? What recreation facilities, schools, associations, congregations, and other neighborhood institutions exist? Consider also social assets such as different cultures, ethnicities, and age groups.


These will be identified as community assets – the good things the community has to offer.

3. As the group walks around, participants will also observe and write down what they consider to be needs or problems in the community. Do they encounter homeless people on the street? Are there safe, productive, and fun places for children to spend time after school? Are there any tensions among neighbors? What other problems or issues do they find? These will be identified as  community needs – what the community is lacking and the problems it faces.


4. Come back as a group (the same hour) to share what you found, both as assets and as needs. A facilitator uses a large piece of paper and writes down participants’ observations under the Assets column and the Needs column.


Discuss: What are common themes among the participants’ observations?


5. Broaden the discussion by asking the group what items they would add to the lists, ie. other assets and needs that participants are aware of but may not have observed directly during their walk (e.g., a well known neighbor who is very active in the community and a youth-friendly store manager are assets; hunger is a need and so is the fact that elderly residents feel lonely.)


6. Have participants come up and place a check mark next to the Need they would like to address for their service-learning project. Count the check marks as votes: What needs does the group identify as a priority? The need with the most check marks is the one the group feels most strongly about addressing with their service-learning project. If there is more than one item checked several times, discuss whether it is feasible for your team to organize more than one project, or select one issue to address now and the other later with a new project.



•Create a neighborhood map with the most important places and institutions (assets) and mark where you identified needs. Mark assets and needs with different colors, symbols or notations.


•Write an opinion piece on what you discovered about your neighborhood and submit it to a local paper.


•Research how your congressional representative is voting on any of the issues you marked as needs. Contact him or her to express your opinion on their voting record on this issue.


•Contact a local organization you found most interesting, learn about its activities, and find out how you can get involved.


•Conduct research about the problem you identified as a priority in your community and write an article about some of its underlying causes. Do so by reading newspapers, interviewing people who know about this issue, and/or consulting relevant books or articles in the library or on the Internet.


•If this project will be performed for National Youth Service Day, discuss the three main goals of the day and how your participation can help youth and others improve the community on this issue.



Option a): Define an area for the children to walk around that is manageable depending on their age (e.g., the school building, the block around the school). Divide them into small groups, each one with an adult who helps them observe the positive things they find as well as what they think needs improvement.


Option b): Replace the walk with a group discussion where children list the positive things their community has and those they consider need improvement. Ask questions that help them focus their observations such as: “Describe your neighborhood”; “What do you like about it?”, “What do you see on your way to school?”;

“What would you like to change?” List the “assets” and “needs” on two different columns. Have the children vote on the community issue they would like to work on. Help them identify a problem that is feasible to focus on for their service-learning project so they will feel a sense of accomplishment when the project is completed.




Read a story that addresses the problem the children will work on and discuss how the story relates to their project. How did the story characters solve the problem? Would they have solved it in the same way?


Invite a speaker who has experience on the problem the children will work on to give them background information on the issue. Have the children present their project and ask questions from the speaker