The Power of Maps



For the second session of Youth Voices PD the participants had an opportunity to explore maps, mapping and a variety of researching and archiving strategies.

We looked at a few historical maps to understand the context under which maps have served to define communities and the people who live there. One key map we discussed was a 1930s Residential Security Map of Philadelphia, created by the Home Owners Loan Corp (HOLC). These maps, often referred to as redlining, were made of cities throughout the United States between 1935 and 1951. They categorized specific areas in cities according to four color-coded categories based on racial and economic desirability of residents and potential home buyers. We explored the question, "how did these maps and classifications continue to affect the neighborhoods and residents defined."

What became clear by reading these maps was the power of maps and map-making to lock a community into a time a space that dictates one understanding of what it means to live and work there. Whether it was maps detailing the "New World" in the 1500's or maps marking the ethnic breakdown of a city in 2010, each told a story about the place and the people who live there.


Having explored these series of maps, the next step for each participant was to reflect on their own community and their experiences and memories of the people, places and things that make up their neighborhood. They were asked to select 10 "hot spots" or locations that hold a special memory of connection for them; a place where they spend time with friends, a location they are scared to go to, a favorite place to play sports, etc. We then asked them to draw a map that featured their "hot spots." This section of the Youth Voices curriculum prompts students to think critically about their neighborhood and their relationship to it, while placing a value on their perspective as we see their community through their eyes.

Participants then moved to the next part of mapping, Mapping 2.0 - building a collaborative and interactive Google map utilizing the hot spots they selected and media assets they will acquire through on-line research or personal collections. Students' individual contributions to the map enhance the totality of the map providing a deeper understanding of the community. In this case, because the educators taking part were from different parts of the Los Angeles area, we did not get that overlaying of hot spots in one neighborhood but rather a broader view of what makes a neighborhood special and unique.

Below is the collaborative map from the Professional Development workshop, and one made by students involved in Departures Chinatown Youth Voices.

Play On! Departures Youth Voices PD Google Map

View My Community - PlayOn! Departures Youth Voices in a larger map

Departures Chinatown Youth Voices Google Map

Story continues below


We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading