Heritage Schools Case Study: Our Place - Local Area Characterisation

Summary: Primary school children used maps and worked with a planner and an architect to decide what is significant in their local area.

Where: Frome Vale Academy, Whitehill Primary, St Barnabus C of E Primary, Victoria Park Primary, Summerhill Academy, Millpond Primary - all in Bristol

Who: Mixed ages from year 2 to year 6 (age 6-11)

Intended outcomes

  • Children develop a sense of place
  • Children understand and identify and local heritage assets
  • Children understand and decide what makes their neighbourhood distinct
  • Children participate in neighbourhood planning

Historic England in partnership with Bristol City Council’s City Design department, trained local teachers in the use of “Our Place” a toolkit enabling local communities to assess the character of their neighbourhood and play a more active role in determining what happens in their neighbourhood in the future. Characterisation involves identifying any important historic places or buildings and defining what makes their area special. The session involved fieldwork with the teachers learning the mapping and annotating techniques used. Four schools then worked directly with, a local planner and an architect. The children walked around their neighbourhood annotating maps identifying characteristics such as tree groups, roof lines, noise levels, views and green spaces and produced displays relating to the local area, past, present and future. One school went on an architectural walk in central Bristol enabling them to discover how architectural styles have changed through time.

What we did

  • Looked at maps of local area
  • Walked around local area annotating maps
  • Researched local area on Know Your Place website
  • Created models to illustrate how the area could be improved 
  • Held exhibitions and invited parents in


  • Learning what a characterisation assessment is
  • Learning the notation techniques
  • Taking children on a trail around busy streets


'The value that the Our Place methodology has for young learners, is not just about mapping skills, but also to encourage pupils to appreciate the value and distinctiveness of their neighbourhood.' (Year 5 teacher)

  • The “Our Place” project has demonstrated that the methodology can form a valuable part of school curricula.
  • Students met learning objectives for geography, history, science, numeracy and literacy.

Resources and web links

Next steps/extension activities

  • Local children to become involved in identifying local heritage at risk
  • Children to become involved in local listing process and nominating heritage assets for listing