So to begin my thoughts, what is the definition of a neighborhood? As adults we are able to recognize our definition of what is involved in the structure of a neighborhood, although our different backgrounds and histories have given us a variety of experiences to bring to that definition. Webster’s Dictionary defines neighborhood as “1. the area or region around or near some place or thing, vicinity; 2. a district or locality, often with reference to its character or inhabitants; 3) a number of persons living near one another or in a particular locality.”
Also of note is the suggestion of the word community as a synonym for neighborhood. These important words, neighborhood and community, embody concepts to bring to the classroom to not only define but dissect.
Children that grow up in an urban setting have more of a sense of neighborhood likely than a suburban child. Being the latter, I spent some time when I came to New Haven learning how the city is divided into areas and then into neighborhoods. I found it quite amazing that although you can live in densely populated places, a neighborhood still forms from the residents within that area. I want my students to recognize that around the city, we have all types of neighborhood that are little communities within our big city.
By exposing the students to the structure of “where they go to school,” I hope to strengthen their understanding of similarities and orderliness of neighborhoods. They have a history, people who live in them, interactions between those residents and responsibilities to that area. Also, neighborhoods have order and symmetry in the buildings, homes, streets, and even landscaping.
In the same vein, communities are embodied within neighborhoods, but separate in definition. While neighborhood suggests those same buildings, structures, streets, and other physical features, community conjures up a more social definition. So back to Webster’s Dictionary for the definition which is as follows: “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.”