Giving Compass' Take:

Students that participate in urban planning projects cultivate an understanding of how their neighborhoods are built and foster basic life skills.

As education moves away from teaching common subjects out of textbooks, what other more nuanced courses will we begin to see in the classroom?

Read about the power of community-led urban design.


Shirl Buss recalls 4th-graders finding their families' homes on an 8-foot model of San Rafael, California, and putting markers down to note the locations. Taking part in the Resilient by Design project, the students during the 2017-18 school year were tasked with creating proposals on how to mitigate rising sea levels in their city — but the prospect of their communities or homes impacted by floods was neither depressing nor daunting.

Instead, Buss notes, they were invested and excited.

“Students were fierce [and] innovative, and this whetted their appetite,” Buss — creative director of Y-PLAN, part of the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools — told Education Dive. “They asked, ‘How old will we be when this happens? How high will the water be?’ Students were engaged and empowered.”

Teaching students about urban planning has long moved beyond using textbooks to show how cities are built on grids. Instead, students are asked to take authorship themselves, either by creating new potential spaces within their communities — similar to the Y-PLAN project — or asking them how those communities can be redesigned and having them craft proposals with that mission in mind.

At the Center for Architecture in New York City, K-12 students undergo a design process, learning how buildings and spaces are built and created. They are then asked to tackle a real-world project in their own area, Catherine Teegarden, the center's education director, told Education Dive.

While, in most cases, their designs aren’t actually built, some students have seen their efforts turned into something tangible for their communities.

Even if projects are never built, though, the design process gives students some insight into how their own neighborhood is constructed.

Read the full article about urban planning by Lauren Barack at Education Dive