Unit IV The State of
Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor
[Working in North Louisiana swamp country as a "woods cowboy" wearing rubber boots with spurs and working with Indian-bred Catahoula herding dogs was tough.] A woods cowboy is a man that can go in these thickets here. . . . They take these range cattle, most people say "wild cattle," they're not used to bein' handled. They live here in these woods. . . you don't put 'em up in a pasture and feed 'em. And they can make it, cause if the grass gets short I have seen them old cows rare up just like a goat and get that moss down out of them trees and eat it. . . . They got to be tough to keep away the coyotes, cats, and wolves and stuff.
--Brownie Ford, Caldwell Parish
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Purpose of Lesson
After studying the major folk regions of Louisiana and the relationship between folklife, geography, and ecology, students give deeper thought to what makes their own community unique, what their "sense of place" is. Not only are our communities and neighborhoods unique, so are our perspectives of where we live. In addition to geographic mapping of their communities, students develop conceptual maps of their sense of place.
Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills
1. Students discover the concept of sense of place and actively explore their own sense of place through observation and fieldwork research.
2. Students map a space in their own neighborhood or community.
3. Students develop conceptual maps of their own neighborhood or community.
4. Students study literature about sense of place and write essays and poetry about their own sense of place.
2-5 class periods
Materials for creating sense of place maps. See Unit IV Lesson 1 for instructions on creating Sense of Place Portfolios or Digital Portfolios. If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.
If your students will be doing fieldwork or the mapping lesson, you may want to use the Atlas: The Louisiana Statewide GIS online maps.
Background Information for the Teacher
Sense of place is a major theme in literature, writing, and social studies. Helping students gain a sense of place in their own community and region deepens their connection to community and opens them to the notion that everyone has a unique sense of place. We all experience a place differently. If any students are new to your community, their sense of place may be strongly associated with another place. While they will get to know your community well during this lesson and the others in this unit, allowing them to reflect on another place for some activities below will enrich the lesson for all.
Create or bring in a map of your community that students can copy or trace to use as the base to designate major roads and landmarks. Examine, print out, and bookmark online maps listed in Technology Options above. Think about how you define the sense of place where you live now and in other places you have lived. What literature has given you a deep sense of place? Think of examples of unique places to share with students. Create a conceptual map of a real place or a literary setting that has been special to you, marking places where events happened where people important to you or local characters lived, gathering places, and so on. Read some of the Louisiana Folklife Articles listed in Internet Resources to heighten your awareness of how sense of place varies from region to region in the state. Print appropriate excerpts and bookmark for students. Print appropriate excerpts. Review questions about community in the Spirit of Place Worksheet. Elementary school teachers may want to choose some of the questions or allow students to choose. Review Unit IV Resources to find useful materials for your students. Remind students to file materials they find or develop in their Sense of Place Portfolio or Digital Portfolio folders, and if you have created a portfolio checklist, to check off the completed items. If using Venn diagrams, Louisiana Voices Venn Diagram shows how to use them for comparisons.
4th and 8th Grade Activities
1. Share a story about your own sense of place from childhood or today with students to introduce the concept of sense of place. If you've created a map to illustrate your sense of place, also share that with students. Brainstorm with them the various elements, or cultural perspectives, that contribute to sense of place, including the boxed list below. Students can use the Cultural Perspectives handout.
Remind students to file materials they find or develop in their Sense of Place Portfolio or Digital Portfolio folders, and if you have created a portfolio checklist, to check off the completed items. Students can also self-evaluate the quality and completeness of their portfolios during and at the end of this final lesson of the unit by using the Rubric for Portfolios.
2. Next, focus on some cultural perspectives from the boxed list above and deepen students' discussion through prompts. Why do these perspectives help define regional culture? How do they define sense of place? Ask students to write a quick list of things in just a few minutes that they think define their own neighborhood or community. As homework, ask students to choose and then observe in detail an area for which they would like to create a sense of place map and essay. Students may work individually or in teams.
3. Discuss soundscape as a perspective, using some of the exercises to heighten listening skills in Unit II to make students more aware of listening. See also Unit VI. Send them on a sound scavenger hunt in their neighborhoods with notebooks or tape recorders. Or, as a class, discuss different parts of your community or region and what they might hear, for example, sounds of nature, language and dialect, traditional music, transportation, and businesses. How do sounds change through the day and night? Through the seasonal round? See Unit V Lesson 2 for activities on regional dialects. Students could share their recordings, asking classmates to guess what part of the community they're overhearing, and edit their tapes into a class community sound collage. If they've written down sounds rather than recording them, ask them to arrange the words on individual, neighborhood, or class poster collages that they decorate with drawings and downloaded images from the Creole State Exhibit and Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery.
4. Ask students to collect formal and informal place names in their community. For example, insiders might know a neighborhood by a special name, or residents may give directions such as, "Turn left at the corner where the cotton gin used to be." Keep a class master list of local place names. Who are streets named for? Buildings? What are names that cultural insiders pronounce differently from cultural outsiders? For example, residents of Vienna, Louisiana, call their town Veye-in-a. New Orleans residents refer to Burgundy Street as BurGUNdy Street. Students may write a short essay or poem on what local place names say about your community. Or, they could arrange community place names in a pattern on drawing paper or using word processing software. Consider using place names to outline the border of a community map on which students collaborate (see Steps 5 and 7 below).
5. How people refer to directions varies regionally. In New Orleans, east, west, north, south are generally not used. People think something is uptown (up river), downtown (down river), front of town (toward the river), back of town or lakeside (away from the river toward Lake Pontchartrain). Along Bayou Lafourche, bayouside is the area between the bayou and the road. The front is the area along the bayou, and back is away from the bayou. In North Louisiana, directions are more specific to place. For example, Bayou DeLoutre is an important cultural divide in Union Parish. People either live on this side or the other and locally that's referred to as "cross Loutre," as in "they're from across Bayou DeLoutre." Ask students to consider what directions are specific to their community and add examples to their maps or to the class Community Story Map in Step 8.
6. Have students draw or trace the outline map of a neighborhood or community and designate major roads, landscape features, and landmarks. Next, they should add "personality features" to the map, such as places associated with local events or characters, distinctive neighborhoods, formal and informal boundaries, various kinds of gathering places, important landmarks. Eighth graders will be able to fill in more details than 4th graders. Find information on websites such as those listed in Technology Connections above.
7. Ask students first to read and then complete the Spirit of Place Worksheet. As a class discuss questions you and students have never thought about before. They should use responses to write an essay or poem on their sense of place. With elementary students, you may want to choose some questions for them or have them choose some.
8. As a culminating activity, create a large, collaborative Community Story Map by combining students' individual neighborhood maps, by working as a class on a big map or use a drawing program. Ask students to think about this sentence: "Sense of place is a story happening many times." Not only do many stories help create a sense of place, many different people's stories overlap and layer sense of place. Students' research and fieldwork throughout this unit will have yielded a lot of information about the personality of neighborhoods, formal and informal place names, geography, ecology, landscape, landmarks, boundaries, and people students have collected stories about. Ask students to look at their Sense of Place Portfolios or Digital Portfolios and consider the questions below as well as on the Spirit of Place Worksheet in conceptualizing and creating their class Community Story Map.
Work with students to decide how to illustrate and design this Community Story Map. Invite other classes and parents to view the map and have student docents describe the process of creating the map and the stories the map tells.
Have students complete the Things I've Learned Worksheet, then share responses with others in small groups.
9. A community or neighborhood walking tour is another good culminating activity. Students may design a brochure with their photos, text, and a map indicating special places and landmarks. They might also create an audio recording that takes the listener on a walking tour of a neighborhood, including sounds, interviews, traditional music, and student voice-overs.
10. See articles on Louisiana's Regional and Cultural Groups. If you want students to use these resources and they are written above their reading level, use Adaptation Strategies to build lessons around them.
4th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. What stories have you read that express a strong sense of place? How do those places compare with yours? Write a paragraph or use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast.
2. What would you photograph to express your sense of place? If possible, take photographs and choose one or two to mount in an exhibit. The school visual art specialist may be able to help with mounting. One option is to make a drawing of your photograph and mount the photograph and the drawing side by side. If using a digital camera, mount an online exhibit of class photos.
3. Visit the River of Words website to view poetry and artwork about places by students around the world. Write and illusrate your own sense of place poem.
8th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. William Faulkner set much of his fiction in the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County of Mississippi. Remember Christopher Robin's map that illustrates the inside covers of Winnie the Pooh books, or the importance of maps in The Lord of the Rings? Create a map illustrating the sense of place for a work of fiction you have read, including places where characters lived and events occurred, landmarks, boundaries, and so on (see The Language of the Land in Lesson Resources below). Such a conceptual map does not have to have exact boundaries but may be loosely represented like a web or diagram. Read about a Louisiana author's deep sense of place in Ernest J. Gaines: Louisiana Stories.
2. Read some of the Essays of Place, by Montana Heritage Project students in the Summer 1999 Montana Heritage Bulletin. Write a short essay comparing one of these western essays with a Louisiana sense of place essay written by you or one of your classmates in Step 6 above.
3. Research how a main street or highway in your region has changed over the years. Where do people shop and socialize today? Where did they gather in previous times? What do people in your community remember about a main shopping district in earlier days? If conducting significant fieldwork, review Unit II Classroom Applications of Fieldwork Basics. Make a class scrapbook of maps, photos, mementos, and interviews about the role of a particular street or highway in your community's memory and history.