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Neighborhood Diversity


Students engage in the process of understanding how ethnic and racial neighborhoods were created in their city. In particular, students understand how institutional practices of realtors and lending institutions affected the formation of neighborhoods. Students learn how neighborhood composition has changed over time in response to changing economic, political, and social factors. Using the Seeing Reason Tool, they explore the role that a variety of cause-and-effect forces have played in shaping neighborhoods. The map provides a graphic representation of how disparate factors have contributed to significant population shifts.

Curriculum-Framing Questions


  • Essential Question
    Why do things change?
  • Unit Questions
    How do racial and ethnic neighborhoods develop?
    Why is diversity increasing or decreasing in our neighborhood?
  • Sample Content Questions
    What are gentrification, displacement, and disinvestment?
    What role do landlords, developers, and banks play in the process of gentrification and disinvestment?



This project idea makes use of the Seeing Reason Tool. Examine the Seeing Reason Web site and familiarize yourself with the tool.


Begin by posing the Essential Question: Why do things change? In pairs, students discuss any changes they have noticed in the world around them. Continue to guide a discussion as a class, posing questions related to changes in their neighborhood.


Students then begin research to have a working knowledge of the following changes in their city and state:

  • history of immigration
  • race relations
  • politics
  • ethnic composition
  • movement trends


Discuss examples of gentrification in your city.


Conduct several mini-lessons and invite city zoning commission, city planners and developers to teach students their role in affecting the formation of neighborhoods in their city. Encourage students to ask questions based on their own neighborhoods. Take anecdotal notes to assess students’ understanding and investigative thinking.


Have students form groups based on where they live in the city. Using the Seeing Reason Tool groups investigate the cause-and-effect relationships to answer the Unit Question: Why is diversity increasing or decreasing in our neighborhood? This initial use of the tool will assess their background knowledge as well as what they have learned thus far.


Using the Internet, groups now research changes and movement trends that focus on their neighborhood. Groups research the following criteria:

  • history of immigration
  • race relations
  • politics
  • ethnic composition
  • reasons for movement trends
  • other changes that may have affected diversity in the neighborhood


Students now revisit their maps to add new knowledge or reassess their thinking. Reiterations of maps can be used to assess students’ higher-order thinking and learning. The comment feature for each item can be used to track student thinking throughout the project.


To culminate, student groups create a Web site about their neighborhood based on the research criteria. Create a rubric with students to assess the Web site and student learning on the criteria stated above, as well as their responses to the Essential Question: Why do things change?

Examine the Seeing Reason Activity

The Seeing Reason space below represents one team's investigation in this project. The map you see is functional. You can roll over the arrows to read relationships between factors, and double-click on factors and arrows to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Neighborhood Diversity (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)
Question: Why is diversity increasing or decreasing in our neighborhood?

Explore an interactive demo.

Neighborhood Diversity
Neighborhood Diversity

At a Glance

Grade Level: 8-12

Subject: American History

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Cause and Effect, Investigation

Key Learnings: Demographic Shifts, Local History, Gentrification

Time Needed: 5, 45-minute sessions