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Traveling Community Journal Project


  • Language Arts
  • Geography/Culture


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Students learn about communities and their cultures by creating an email (or U.S. mail) “community journal.” How far do their journals travel?


Students will learn about other people and their communities and cultures.


journal, culture, social studies, friends, family, postcard, map, community, measurement

Materials Needed

  • email access (alternatively, this project could be completed via U.S. mail)
  • a letter template, a journal template (see THE LESSON below)

The Lesson

Explain the Project to the Class
The "Communities Journal" project is intended to be a yearlong project that teaches students about communities and cultures in many places. Each student will pass her/his journal to a family friend or acquaintance in another part of the state, country, or world. In turn, that person passes it along to another and another With each pass of the journal, the student receives a postcard from a new locale. Students calculate (using a scale of miles or an online "traveling directions" resource such as MapQuest).

This lesson idea can be used across many grades. You might use it if
  • you are introducing the concept of "communities" to very young children.
  • your students have a more sophisticated understanding of communities and you are challenging them to look more deeply at cultures in a variety of settings (in your country or around the world).

The first step in creating a "Traveling Community Journal" is to decide what information you/your students want to learn about communities and cultures in other places. You can use the Community Journal template/form below as an example, or, better yet, have students create their own; brainstorm with them to come up with the questions that they will pose on their form.

The following sample questions might serve as a guide as you and your students create a "Traveling Community Journal" form. Note that this form might be one you send via the post office or -- if you would like to integrate technology into your project -- students can send their forms via email. The choice is yours. The postcards you request can be sent my email or "snail mail" too.

Dear ________ [Friend],

I am a student attending _____ School in _____ [city, state] in the country of _____. In our social studies class we are learning about communities around the world. Please help me and my classmates learn more about your community by writing a short note in my Traveling Community Journal about yourself and about your town and its special facts and features.

When you have completed your journal entry, could you send the journal via [mail, e-mail] to a friend in another _____ [town, state, country]?

Could you help me keep track of my Traveling Community Journal too? If you will be so kind to send me a picture postcard of your town I will be able to track my journal's journey. Me and my classmates will be trying to see how far our journals travel!

If you receive this journal after _____ [insert date about a month before the end of the project; for example, May 10, 2006], please complete a page in my journal and mail it back to me at the address below. [If you are using e-mail, please email the journal back to _____ [teacher or student's email address].

Thank you so much for helping my classmates and me learn about communities around the _____ [state, country, world]!

_________ [Student's name]
_________ [School name (and room number, if using postal service]
_________ [Complete school address or email address]

Include a separate form that might look like this or be adapted from it. Your form might or might not include information about the student too, as shown below.

Name:_________________________ Grade:_________________
School Address: ________________________________________
Place of Birth: __________________________________________
My Hobbies: _____________________________________________________
My Favorite Foods: _____________________________________________________
Things to do in my community: _____________________________________________________
Interesting Facts About My Community

Tell Us About Your Community

Date: ________________________________________________
Name: _______________________________________________
Location: _____________________________________________
Language Spoken: ______________________________________
What are your hobbies? _____________________________________________________
Tell me about your favorite foods. _____________________________________________________
Tell me about the climate in your community. _____________________________________________________
What landmarks or places of special interest can be found in your community?
What industries can be found in your community?
What other neat facts can you tell us about your community?

Thank you for your participation in our Traveling Community Journal project!

Once the form(s) are set up, students are ready to mail (or email) it to someone who lives in a community that is different from their own. Have each child ask parents or guardians for the address of a friend or relative. Parents might even help students fill in the top part of the form. Students and their families should choose someone they are certain will take time to respond. If you are using the postal service for this project, you might want to provide postage for mailing the journal, or you might have asked parents in advance to provide postage.

As responses come in, read aloud the postcards and create a class display. You might post a map to a bulletin board and display the postcards around it. Put up on a bulletin board a large map and string yarn from each postcard to the location of the community from which it was sent.

If you are using email, create a book of the "Traveling Community Journal" pages that are emailed back to students. If students are using the postal service for this project, the journals should come back before the end of the year so there should be time to sort out what is learned from each one.


Students might summarize what they have learned about each community and culture. If you teach older students, pose a higher-level thinking question such as How would you feel if you had to move to _____ [name of community]?, Where would you work and live? or How would your life be different than it is now? Students might record their responses in extra pages that you insert into their Traveling Community Journals.

Submitted By

Pauline Finlay, Holy Trinity Elementary School in Torbay, Newfoundland (Canada), from an idea suggested by her principal, Charlotte Barrington

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