I reached out to my daughter's second grade teacher about the idea of promoting city planning to her class through the APA Ambassador program. It turned out that planning would fit well with the school's STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering, and Math) initiative and be a great activity for the class in May 2019.
I had no idea whether the students at Castlemont Elementary School in Campbell, California, knew anything about planning, but I wanted to make the activity both informative and interactive, leaving them with the desire to learn more. I embarked on providing a presentation about the basic concepts about planning and why planning exists.
I asked a basic question: What is a City? Several eager hands raised and their answers were "a place with people, buildings, and cars."
From there I knew we were off to a good start. I started to discuss something more complicated like compatibility and, sure enough, the group said "Airports and houses should not be placed next to each other." The class started to ask me questions, and I had to remind them that I don't actually design or build the buildings.
Students at Castlemont Elementary School work on their city-building exercises with APA Ambassador Sheldon S. Ah Sing, AICP. Photo courtesy of the author.
The balance of the activity was the real fun part: students worked in groups to create their own cities. This entailed using a large blank sheet of paper and drawing roads and parks and placing buildings (residential, commercial, and other) cut out of cardstock paper.
At the end of the collaborative stage each group presented its city to their peers and explained why they placed the buildings where they did.
In the end, it was super fun activity that exceeded my expectations. I think this experience will tie into my next Ambassador activity.
Top image: A young student builds a city in an activity led by APA Ambassador Sheldon S. Ah Sing, AICP. Photo courtesy Sheldon S. Ah Sing.
About the Author
Sheldon S. Ah Sing, AICP, is a principal planner with consulting firm M-Group in Campbell, California. He also serves on the City of Campbell General Plan Advisory Committee.