1. Activate previous student knowledge about Jerusalem.

Ask students what area of the world Jerusalem is located in. Point out Israel and the Palestinian territories on the Interactive MapMaker and ask students what they know about this place. Some students may be very knowledgeable about the conflict or the wall separating the Palestinian territories from Israel. If so, listen but veer students away from sharing information about the conflict to sharing an understanding about the geographic size of Jerusalem and the different people living and worshipping there. Explain that Jerusalem is today a large city spread out over a vast area, but for most of its history it was located in an area now called "the Old City." Jerusalem's Old City is an old and very small walled city that is made up of four quarters. Tell students they will be focusing on Jerusalem’s Old City during this activity.  


2. Students research Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Ask: What do Christians, Jews, and Muslims have in common? Students may have many answers, but try to bring out that all practice monotheistic religions and that all view the city of Jerusalem as a special place. Break students into research pairs, and assign each pair to research Christianity, Judaism, or Islam using the provided websites. Ask students to note places that are sacred to each religion.

Bring the students back together to watch video clips about the quarters taken from the National Geographic film Jerusalem. Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Explain that in each video clip, a young girl of each religion will explain what it’s like to live in her quarter of Jerusalem. Before watching each clip, remind students to pay special attention to the religious ceremonies and places mentioned in each quarter.


3. Students compare a map of Jerusalem’s four quarters to what they have learned about each religion.    

Display the 1996 Jerusalem: The Old City map that depicts all four quarters; note that there are three religions, but four quarters. Ask: Which religion is depicted twice? If students are unable to answer, explain that the Christian religion is depicted twice because the Armenian quarter is also Christian. Have students identify each quarter, and invite research pairs to share what they learned from their web research on their assigned religion. In particular, elicit from students which religious sites are most important to each religion. Ask: Which religious sites are located in Jerusalem? What quarter is each site located in? Make a list of student answers on the board, and then read the Background Information aloud to students. Instruct students to take notes as they listen, and afterwards have students add additional sites to the list on the board. The completed list should include: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christian), Dome of the Rock (Muslim), the Western Wall (Jewish), St. James Cathedral (Armenian Christian Quarter), and the Seven Gates. If students share additional items, add them to the list. Scroll through the Jerusalem photo gallery to give students a visual of each of these sites.


4. Students create their own map of Jerusalem: The Old City.

Explain that students will each be creating their own map of Jerusalem's Old City based on their knowledge of what religious sites belong in each quarter. Review the Map of Jerusalem’s Old City Checklist with students so they know which features their map must include. Review general mapping features, such as scale and the map key. Continue to display the 1996 Jerusalem: The Old City map for students to use as a reference. Encourage students to work together as they work on their maps. Prompt discussion by asking where they think each religious site is located in Jerusalem’s Old City. Although students are allowed to work in groups, each student must create his or her own map.


5.  Students review each other’s maps and discuss the four quarters. 

After they have drawn their maps, assign students into groups so that each group has a student who researched Christianity, a student who researched Islam, and a student who researched Judaism. As a group, have them review each other’s maps using the Map of Jerusalem’s Old City Checklist as a guide. Before groups begin, explain that each student “expert” should verify that their assigned religion’s religious sites are included on their peers’ maps. Make sure students are making any necessary changes to their maps, as the final copies of their maps will be collected for assessment. After each group has finished reviewing and editing their maps, bring students together for a class discussion on the four quarters. Ask: Is there at least one sacred or notable place in each quarter? If so, is this place a factor in that religion’s decision to settle in that quarter?

Informal Assessment

Collect the final copies of students’ maps of Jerusalem's Old City and compare them against the Map of Jerusalem: The Old City Answer Key to ensure all quarters, gates, and religious sites are properly identified. 

Extending the Learning

  • Students may research to find out meanings and backgrounds of the monuments they mapped, and annotate their maps with what they discover.
  • Extend this activity into mathematics curriculum by asking students to calculate the percentage area of each quarter based on the total area of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • explore the major religions represented in the population of present-day Old Jerusalem
  • identify and locate each quarter in Jerusalem's Old City and the most significant religious monuments in each

Teaching Approach

  • Object-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Hands-on learning
  • Research

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

  • Theme 1:  Culture
  • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments
  • Theme 5:  Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 1:  How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information
  • Standard 10:  The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
  • Standard 12:  The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • Standard 2:  How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
  • Standard 4:  The physical and human characteristics of places

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

ISTE Standards for Students (ISTE Standards*S)

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Markers
  • Paper

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

Jerusalem's Old City is a very small, walled section within the new, modern city of Jerusalem. In total, it is 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 square miles). Because walls surround Jerusalem's Old City, people enter this section through gates. While there are eleven gates in total built around the city, only seven gates are open today: New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lions’ Gate, Dung Gate, Zion Gate, and Jaffa Gate. Once inside the walls, Jerusalem's Old City is divided into four uneven quarters: Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and Jewish.


The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most populated quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. It is on the northeastern sector. It sits close to the Dome of the Rock, a magnificent shrine built over a large rock, and Al-Aqsa Mosque (meaning "the furthest mosque"). Muslim tradition associates this place with the Prophet Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey and ascension to heaven.


The Christian Quarter is in the northwestern corner of Jerusalem's Old City. The Christian Quarter contains many churches and tourist sites, but few actual houses. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also found here. It is believed by many Christians to be the site where Jesus was crucified and resurrected.


The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the four quarters. While Christian, the Armenians are a distinct population with their own unique history. The Armenians were the first people to make Christianity their national religion.  


The Jewish Quarter lies in the southeastern sector. The Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount—an enormous stone platform in Jerualem's Old City. The Western Wall is one of Judaism’s most sacred monuments because it is believed to be the closest surviving remnant of an ancient temple.



Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.


having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


having to do with Islam, the religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.