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Local Detective: Choose a Building


This is an open-ended project that starts with a building in your local area. Children will look at its history in greater detail and follow their interests to determine what the focus of their final piece of work will be: from the building itself and the people who have used it over the years to how families and furniture have changed since the building was built!


Become a local detective - Select one building in your local area:

It could be any local building in the area where you are social distancing and walking around for your daily exercise. It doesn’t have to be an important historical building. Local History is so important across the Primary School. Wherever you live, there is History!


Selection of buildings in the locality: Choose an older building in the local area, which is interesting or significant and important in the local environment – it can be the church, their school, the local war memorial, a farm, a library, shops or any other community building etc.

On your daily walk: take a photograph of the building.

Encourage the children to talk about what they notice about the building.  You could make a quick sketch, and take photographs to refer back to.


As you keep walking, discuss these 5 W questions:
Who used it in the past?

When do you think it was built?

Why is it important to the community then (and now)?

What is the building used for?
Where else could this have been built in the area if this location hadn’t been picked? Is this the best place for it? E.g. Why was this site chosen not a different place?


When you return to your home: Think about how you want to present what you discovered on the walk. You may just have a discussion, but let your child choose how they want to show what they know – it can be in writing as a journal or guide book, but it could be on a map, a poster, a drawing, in a model, a song or a poem. They could make a quiz for the rest of the family or your own choice.

Encourage further questions about the building.
Ask the children to ask “better” questions after they have begun to think more about the building. They could place a second word such as…. if, could, would, might, will, can, did etc., to one of the 5 W starters to make more effective questions to promote deeper thinking
e.g. What if…? Who might….? Where would….? When did…?
Use these questions to have a discussion. They could write down their answers, but the important bit is thinking about the questions, taking turns to ask questions and having a discussion



Visit the building again or use photographs indoors.
Look at photographs of the building or better still visit the building again another day.
Visiting the building over a number of visits will allow for research on the internet and discussion in between visits and provide deeper, more informed questioning on subsequent visits. Ask the children to think how old it is. Why do they think that? Look for clues for its age e.g. look for dates/signs it was built a long time ago by observing differences.


Encourage close observational skills either on the walk or on the photograph.
The children should select the part of the building which fascinates them most – e.g. is one window, or door, or the decoration above the windows or near the roof etc.?
Encourage the children to take their own close up photographs of their selected part of the building. The children can start to draw their favourite section of the building or use the photograph to draw it later. Talk about the part they have chosen: Why did you choose that section? What did you like about it?


The same or different?
When they get home, can they find any pictures in books or on the internet such as or of buildings which have similar features to the part of the building you chose? How is it different?


Thinking about the people who used the building.
On another walk past the building, look carefully around the outside space. What does this tell you about the building’s use? Who do you think worked or lived here? Think creatively about the people who may have lived, worshipped or worked in the building in the past. What kind of people lived or worked or used the building?
Were they rich or poor? Young or old? Were they hardworking or people who lived a leisurely life? What did they do for fun?  How could they find out?
What can you find out about the people who lived or used the building in the past?
Would you have liked to live, worship or work in the building in the past? Why?
Encourage the children to justify their views with evidence, drawing on what they have discovered about the building.


What might the inside of the building look like?
Does it look like a home or shop or factory or a place of worship? What might be inside?
If you have never been inside the building before, look at a selection of photographs in books or on the internet, or in films for a similar building from the same time e.g. research on
Think about what the inside and equipment might have looked like 50 years ago or 100 years ago, with that found in the building today.


If the chosen building is a home – what can you think about?
If the building is a home, look for clues as to the size of the family now. Think about out how many children people had in the past. You could look at online census by address What were beds like 50 years ago or 100 years ago or even older than that? Where did they wash?
Take a particular piece of kitchen equipment in their own home and look how this changed within Living Memory since 1930 e.g. the cooker or kettle or methods of making a cake from bowl and wooden spoon to mixers and food processors.
Find equipment which has not changed over time e.g. Kitchen knives or spoons. 
What furniture would be there? How was it used? How did they prepare meals? Start looking at different homes through different times and compare to their own. What does this tell you about life at the time and how it is the same and different to life today in their home?


Think carefully about how to present what you have found out through research and observation about your building.

It could be through sketches, photography, map work, models, written work etc. You decide!