Great American Cities: Exploring Chicago

Great American Cities: Exploring Chicago
Michelle Obama: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: 3-5 class periods

Required Documents
Guide to Chicago Attractions


Michelle Obama and her mother were born in Chicago, and that is the city in which she met and married Barrak Obama, and where her two children, Melia and Sasha, were born, and where the Obamas lived and worked until they moved to the White House.  Chicago is the fourth largest city in the United States (some still argue it’s the second largest!), and is full of history and fun things to do. It is surely one of America’s great cities.


Students who participate in this lesson will get a general idea of the city of  Chicago, its history, its attractions, and its character.  Each student will research one big attraction, placing it geographically on a map of Chicago, and writing a short description of the attraction’s history and its current interest to visitors.  Students will then create either a brochure, or a PowerPoint presentation featuring this information and any pictures that may be available (see stock pictures, below).

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to printing facilities; PowerPoint program; push pins; colored paper; felt-tip pen(s).


1.  Begin by showing students a map of Chicago (using one of the first two map sites listed below) – enlarged in you can, or enlarged through an overhead projector – and noting that the city has many, many neighborhoods.
2.  Print out and distribute the list of Chicago attractions (linkable resource, above), and ask each student to select one of these to investigate.  Investigation should include: 
  • Some history of the attraction
  • One or two items that are important and/or interesting about the attraction
  • What the attraction currently has to offer visitors
  • Why the attraction should be one of the “top ten” attractions
3.  When students have all selected an attraction, have them explore the site listed, and any other site that they think might give them more information about the attraction.  Part of the research includes positioning the attraction on a map of the city, using a push pin and a small paper pennant with the name of the attraction on it. Pennants can be color coded by the type of attraction if desired.
4.  When their research is complete, ask each student to prepare either a print brochure or a PowerPoint presentation about his or her attraction.  These should be shared with the whole class on a “Going to Chicago” Day.
5.  Students should conclude the lesson by voting on the “top ten” attractions.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by using the same process to investigate attractions of interest in the students’ own village, town, or city.  Quite often, we don’t pay much attention to what’s in our own backyard, and this lesson can be easily adapted to local communities.

Sources & Resources:

Erler, L. Curt. Southside Kid. Booksurge Publishing, 2006.
Hurd, Owen, and Johnson, Gary. Chicago History for Kids: Triumphs and Tragedies of the Windy City Includes 21 Activities. Chicago Review Press, 2007.
      Community Area Map
      Chicago Neighborhood Map
      Map of Chicago Landmarks
      Exploring Chicago
      About the City of Chicago
      Virtual Tours
      Pictures of Chicago
This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.