Telling Brooklyn Stories, part II: Building a Collaborative Walking Tour
Telling Brooklyn Stories, part II: Building a Collaborative Walking Tour

Inspired by research in the archives, students create a group walking tour, film themselves giving one stop on that tour, and embed the videos on a publicly-accessible Google map.

Inspired by research in the archives, students create a group walking tour, film themselves giving one stop on that tour, and embed the videos on a publicly-accessible Google map.


In this project, students select a location near their college and develop an oral presentation about that location for a collaborative, class-led walking tour. Each student’s “stop” is captured on video and shared on a publicly available, online map.

This extended, semester-long project builds upon a previous visit to the archives in which students give impromptu speeches comparing and contrasting historical maps. The class also goes on a walking tour led by archives staff. This offers useful information as well as a framework for thinking about the value of accessing and relaying information through storytelling.

The collaborative nature of the project generates a sense of community and camaraderie among the first-year students in the composition and public speaking courses in our “Telling Brooklyn Stories” learning community.

By employing a place-based approach to research, writing, and communication instruction, this exercise orients students to the college’s vicinity. Expanding students’ familiarity and comfort with the surrounding area can help them find a place — literally and figuratively — at college.


Students should be able to:

  • Select an appropriate location near their college to include in a class-led walking tour
  • Conduct secondary source research for the walking tour stop using databases available through their college library
  • Develop and deliver a walking tour stop based on cumulative work completed throughout the semester
  • Create a video of the walking tour stop, post it to YouTube, embed it on a collaborative Google map, and share it on the class blog


In English Composition, students read essays and articles that tell personal stories about life in New York (see Further Reading below).


Number of Visits: 2
Duration of Visits: 2 hours 15 minutes each

Visit 1 Agenda: Walking Tour

15 minutes
Introduction to walking tour (in classroom)

1 hour 30 minutes
Walking tour

15 minutes

15 minutes
Wrap up

A professional historian who works at the archives models the structure and content of a walking tour for students. Students gain context about the area surrounding their college. They learn that neighborhoods sometimes contain physical evidence of the past, and that new development often obscures the history of the area.

Stops include the Brooklyn Theater and the fire that destroyed it; the Henry Ward Beecher statue in Columbus Park; and the Brooklyn Historical Society building.

Wrap up

The tour ends at Brooklyn Historical Society, the archives that students will later visit. Inside, students reflect on both the content and the structure of the walking tour.

Visit 2: Archives Visit

In a visit to the archives, students compare and contrast historical maps and deliver impromptu speeches. See the agenda and description of this exercise here.

End Products


Students are instructed to take a 15- to 20-minute walk in any direction from the college and to look for two different New Yorks in juxtaposition. (This idea draws from course readings such as “City Limits” by Colson Whitehead and “The Tunnel Rats of Atlantic Avenue” by Yonette Joseph). They write about this experience in an 800 – 1100 word essay. See instructions here.

Walking Tour Stop and Video

Students create and deliver a walking tour stop informed by course readings, the walking tour field trip, and the maps examined in the archives. See instructions for selecting a stop here.

Google Map

In pairs, students film each other at their location delivering the oral presentation. Students upload their videos to Youtube and embed them in a shared Google map which creates a virtual walking tour of the area around the college (See a more recent map from fall 2013 here). On the final day of the semester, the class watches the videos and conducts a critique of the finished products.

Student contributions to the map are graded based on their adherence to the instructions provided. I use the following criteria:

  • Did the student communicate effectively in the video?
  • Did the student incorporate research effectively?
  • Did the student meet the time expectations for the speech?
  • Did the student consider audience in the development and delivery of the speech?
  • Did the student convey creativity in the approach to and execution of the video?

Further Reading

But, Juanita and Mark J. Noonan, eds. The Place Where We Dwell: Reading and Writing about New York City. 3rd edition. New York: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 2007.

The below essays were used in this course:

    Nelson George, “Fort Greene Dreams”
    Willie Perdomo, “Where I’m From”
    Gloria Deák, “The People, Parks, and Ambience of Brooklyn”
    Colson Whitehead, “City Limits” from The Colossus of New York
    Jennifer Egan, “Reading Lucy”
    Lopate, “The Brooklyn Bridge”

Capote, Truman. A House on the Heights. 2nd edition. New York: New York Review of Books, 2002.

Joseph, Yonette. “The Tunnel Rates of Atlantic Avenue.” New York Times, 13 February 2009.

Mc Grath, Ben. “Who Knows Brooklyn?” New Yorker, 21 September 2009.

Steinberg, Saul. “View of the World from 9th Avenue.” New Yorker, 29 March 1976.

Trachtenberg, Alan. “Introduction.” In The Brooklyn Bridge: Fact and Symbol. 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

To cite this page:
Jody R. Rosen, “Telling Brooklyn Stories, part II: Building a Collaborative Walking Tour,”, accessed [insert date here],


Jody R. Rosen
Assistant Professor of English
City Tech (CUNY)
view author bio >

Used In

ENG 1101: English Composition

A learning community in which first-year students enroll in the same English Composition and Effective Speaking courses. Both fulfill general education requirements.


This project can be adapted for any high school or college course using place-based learning.

Print Exercise

Print this entire exercise, including course materials, here.