1. Brainstorm what defines a place.
Ask students to brainstorm what defines a place. Provide examples to get them started, such as:

  • people
  • weather
  • landscape
  • plant life
  • animal life

Have students work in small groups to write their own lists. Then, invite groups to share their ideas and write a class list on the board.

2. Have students identify what defines your town as a place.
Ask students to think about what defines your town as a place. Have them use the discussion to add ideas to the original list. If needed, prompt them with questions, such as:

  • Who lives here? What languages do they speak?
  • Is the neighborhood in a city, suburb, or the country?
  • What is the weather like? How cold or warm does it get? Does it rain much?
  • What does the land look like? Are there mountains, lakes, or beaches nearby?
  • What plants and animals live here?


3. Generate a class list of questions about place.
Have students share any questions they have about what defines a place or why it is important. Ask: What are you curious about? What would you like to know more about?

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • explain what defines a place
  • identify what defines their town as a place

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Discussions

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

  • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 4:  The physical and human characteristics of places

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

A place is defined by its natural and human features. You can learn a lot about what defines a place by looking at your own community.

Prior Knowledge

  • None


human features

characteristics of the environment created by human beings.

natural feature

characteristic of a geographic region that was not created by humans.


area having unique physical and human characteristics.