CONNECTING STUDENTS TO THEIR COMMUNITY:  Taking Pride In Their School, Local Area, & Themselves


[semester equivalent = 2.00 credits]



Peter Chausse



In this course, you will discover dozens of lesson and project ideas that can help your students develop a sense of pride in their school and local community. The lessons can extend learning outside the classroom and involve opportunities for community involvement. Each lesson can integrate history, math, and artwork into the curriculum while working to make a positive impact on the lives of the students and their community.

This course is appropriate for teachers of all subjects, grades K-8.  The materials can now be acquired from the instructor via email for free.  Choose and read an additional text resource from the annotated bibliography in this syllabus.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

1.     Created lessons that can help students develop a sense of pride in their lives.
2.     Learned how to implement lessons that encourage the beautification of the school grounds.
3.     Developed lessons that focus on neighborhood exploration.
4.     Created activities that encourage partnerships with local parks and businesses.
5.     Designed and developed lessons that integrate local history, art, and nature. 

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



Select a book of your choice, based on the grade level you teach, or similar texts, from the bibliography provided.

None. All reading is online.


• The materials packet can now be acquired from the instructor via email at no cost. After registration, please contact Peter Chausse at to obtain materials. • Select a book of your choice, based on the grade level you teach, or similar texts, from the bibliography provided. The cost of the book will depend on where you purchase it.



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Read Handout Packet

To expand your knowledge on lessons and projects that build student pride and pride in the local community, read the handout packet featuring a list of recommended texts and lesson ideas of how these lessons can be integrated within various curriculum areas. The handout will include information on current projects, lesson ideas, and a listing of possible community resources. Then decide how this information might prove valuable to you and your students, and summarize your thoughts in a 2 page paper.

Assignment #2: Read A Book from the Bibliography

Read a book from among those listed in the bibliography appropriate for the classroom level you teach, or read a book of your own choice with the instructor's prior approval. Comment (in a 2-page paper) on the book's effectiveness in teaching students about pride-building projects and activities or in preparing meaningful student experiences. Be sure to identify the book read and comment on how the book will assist you in your teaching.

Assignment #3: Visit Community Projects

Visit sites where community projects have been completed near your school or local neighborhood, or visit websites to see how these projects are benefiting schools and neighborhoods. Summarize your findings in a 3-page paper.

Assignment #4: Integrate Pride-Building Projects

Consider ways to integrate pride-building projects with writing, art, history, math, or other academic areas when appropriate. Write a 3-page paper summarizing your ideas.

Assignment #5: Local Resources

Consider local resources that might be available when teaching about your school, neighborhood, and local businesses, including guest speakers, educational kits, field trips, and community service projects. Decide how to tie classroom learning experiences to the school or the community. Summarize your lesson ideas in a 3-page paper.



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #6: Design 3 Lessons

Design 3 lessons that focus on some aspect of self and family celebration, school, neighborhood or local park appreciation, or any other aspect of this topic. These lessons should be designed to meet your learning objectives. They can focus on various indoor and/or outdoor activities that can be tied together as part of a teaching unit, as individual lessons, or as lessons that can be integrated with other academic areas.

Use your district’s approved lesson plan format and include the following information:

  • The grade level.
  • Student learning outcomes for each lesson.
  • The in-class and out-of-class activities that will take place.
  • Materials and texts, student projects, and additional personnel needed.
  • Include evaluation criteria that indicate how learning will be assessed, rubrics, performance standards, etc.

The handout packet sent from the instructor will detail various lesson ideas. Possible lessons include: having students create a family tree or a poster to celebrate their lives and their ancestry, developing artwork to celebrate student families and culture, helping beautify their school grounds through the creation of a garden, the labeling of trees, the removal trash and invasive species, planting trees and native plants, visiting the fire and police stations, providing community service and community art projects, or any other projects that might seem appropriate.

Assignment #7: Lesson Implementation

Teach the lessons to your students (from assignment #6). Write a 3-page paper summarizing the results of the lesson implementation, including new ideas or modifications to improve the lessons. 

Assignment #8: Share Results From The Lessons

After teaching each of the three lessons (from assignment #6), share your results with another teacher and ask for his/her critique. Summarize this feedback in a 3-page paper.

Assignment #9: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete both of the following:

Option A)
Conduct an internet search for websites containing information on any aspect of student community service ideas and related topics. Create a 3-page bibliography of the sites that you found. Then detail how you will use these websites to stimulate student learning.

Option B)

Create original research or hands-on project for your students that will focus on some aspect of community service and outreach. Discuss your goals, instructions, and project implementation with the instructor before you begin. Then follow-up with a discussion on the results of the project.


Assignment #10: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Peter Chausse, B.S. is a former elementary school teacher, who has specialized in teaching his students about trees, plants, urban parks and natural areas.

Before beginning his teaching career, Peter earned a degree in Forestry from the University of Maine. His training included coursework in Dendrology (tree identification), Forest Management and wood product usage.

In the early 1980's, Peter worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the state of Washington, where he focused on tree identification and scientific observations. Since 1994, Peter has taught a course through The Heritage Institute titled, ‘Studying Portland’s Trees’ During the course, participants learn how to recognize several dozen tree species as they explore Portland’s parks and historic neighborhoods on foot. Ideas for the integration of tree study with math, art, science, literature, writing and social studies activities are presented and discussed.

Peter has had a lifelong love of trees, and is eager to help you acquire more tree knowledge. He is also dedicated to helping you bring this information to your students in fun and meaningful ways.  


Jake Gordon, M.S. Ed., graduated from Western Oregon University.  He became a teacher due to his desire to share the world with his students and give them the skills needed to explore and understand the world around them. 

In 2017 Jake took an academic sabbatical to pursue his graduate studies. He moved to Germany and completed a year of graduate studies at the world-renowned American Studies Leipzig Institute at the University Leipzig. With an expanded worldview and knowledge base, Jake returned to Oregon, where he earned an M.S. in Social Studies Education from Western Oregon University in June 2019.

He currently teaches social studies and geography at Adam Stephens Middle School in Salem, Oregon. In addition to teaching, Jake is an elected member of the Center for Geography Education in Oregon. 


CONNECTING STUDENTS TO THEIR COMMUNITY:  Taking Pride In Their School, Local Area, & Themselves

Schwartz, Kyle.  I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Kids. 2016. DaCapo Lifelong Books, Philadelphia, PA
This book focuses on building a positive classroom environment and developing learning that connects students to their local community.

Early Childhood Education:
Slumberkins: Building Connections Meet Otter.
This book offers a series of lesson ideas that focus on how to build a classroom community and how to strengthen connections between community members.

Sobel, David. Place Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities, 2004, Green Writers Press, Vermont.
Through research and practical examples, Sobel presents ideas of how to connect the school community and the local environment.  This book is great for primary school students.

Sobel, David Mapmaking with Children: Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years. 1998. Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH.
Sobel discusses local projects that begin in backyards and communities, that provide a sense of place.

Skiffington-Dickson, Diane. The Oral History Project: Connecting Students to Their Community. Grades 4-8. 2006. Pearson Education, Canada.
This book is a guide to creating a proven and effective oral history project that will help connect students to their local community.

Thompson, William J. ‘Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors.”  2007. Island Press.  
This book discusses ways to make sites healthy by providing appropriate soils, and landscape designs. Ideas can be modified for school, home, and community projects.

Timpson, William M., Brian Dunbar, Gailmarie Kimmel, Brett Bruyere, Peter Newman and Hillary Mizia. “147 Tips for Teaching Sustainability: Connecting the Environment, Economy & Society.” 2006. Atwood Publishing.
Easy to implement ideas for making students aware of their environment, as they study their local community, their lifestyles, and the products they use. Recycling, composer and more are discussed.

Weismann, Adam & Katy Bryce “Building with Cob: A Step by Step Guide” 2006
Step-by-step instructions for creating cob structures and advice on how to construct cob benches, and other hands-on projects appropriate for school and home.

Each of these websites provides information about how to develop lessons that will help students to build pride in themselves and in their local community. Many websites discuss the building of community connections through cooperative art and community service projects

These websites provide helpful ideas in teaching students to write an autobiography.
Literacy Ideas for Teachers and Students.  How to Write an Autobiography  Teaching ESL Students How to Write An Autobiography: Project & Examples.

Bright Hub Education.  Autobiography Lesson for Middle School & High School Students  Autobiography Lesson Plan

These websites explain how to develop lessons on student-created Family Trees.  Family Tree Lesson Plan

Family History Daily.   Free Family Tree Lesson Plans for Kids & Teens

These websites discuss dozens of collaborative art projects that build class and community connections.
We Are Teachers. 30 Collaborative Art Projects That Bring Out Everyone’s Creative Side.

The Art of Education University.  View collaborative projects.

Art Class Curator.  12 Super Fun Collaborative Group Art Projects for Kids

These websites discuss classroom art and history projects that can be displayed on the school grounds and at local businesses.
Teacher Magazine.  Displaying artwork on school grounds

The Art of Education.  How to Get Art Displayed in Your Community.

12WBOY.  Fairmont State students brighten up the community with art.

Wilsonville Oregon.  1-5 Artwork – Beauty & the Bridge

Van Buren High School students’ art raises money for Community Services Clearinghouse

Getting Smart. 3 Ways to Model Collaboration and Partnership in Schools and Classrooms.

Classroom Projects

These websites discuss and showcase the development of cob benches on school grounds and ways to create benches for local schools.
Building a Cob Bench

The City Repair Project

Peace on Earthbench Movement.  How-To Build with Cob,backwards%20and%20pull%20on%20tarp%20rather%20than%20pushing.

These websites provide valuable information on how to establish and maintain a school garden.
Eartheasy.  How to Start a School Garden:  Your Complete Guide

Kids Gardening.  Starting a School Garden Program

Ontario ECOschools.  School Grounds Clean-Up Campaign,environment%20can%20impact%20air%2C%20water%2C%20soil%2C%20and%20wildlife

Each of these websites discusses the importance of projects to plant trees and remove invasive vegetation on school grounds and in the local community.
The City of Vancouver Washington.  School Tree Planting,at%20their%20schools%20and%2C%20in%20turn%2C%20their%20communities.  Learning Landscapes – Planting Trees With Schools

Project Learning Tree. Tree Planting and Gardening Nurture Learning

Friends of Trees.  We Pant Trees + Grow Community

Johnson Creek Watershed Council. Check out the History of Floodplain Management in Johnson Creek Watershed

Columbia Slough Watershed Council

These websites provide information for implementing successful school and neighborhood cleanup programs.
Learning to Give.  The Great School Clean-Up

Grassroots Grant Makers.  How to Organize a Neighborhood Cleanup.

These websites provide information on how to map the school grounds and establish an arboretum on the school grounds.
Riveredge.  For Educators: Simple Steps For Mapping Your Schoolyard

Childhood by Nature. Nature Mapping the School Grounds

The University of Wisconsin.  School Grounds Lessons

Buckland Council.  Adopt a Park school program                    ,tailor%20the%20programme%20to%20suit%20your%20students%27%20needs.

These websites explain the benefits of adopting a local park to build connections between students and their local park.
Beyond the Walls Education. Schools: Adopt a Local Part and Gain a Classroom

South Kingstown.  Adopt-A-Park

These websites discuss how to develop historical markers for the community.
ABC 7 News. Springfield, Va.  Students create historical markers for Black history icons

Read Write Think. Not Your Usual History Lesson: Writing Historical Markers

These websites discuss ideas for connecting students with senior citizens in the community.
Bayshore Home Care.  The 10 Benefits of Connecting Youth and Seniors

MSN powered by Microsoft News.  New Community vegetable garden hopes to connect seniors, students in Monroe.

In Genius Prep.  17 Community Service Ideas for Hight School Students