The Village of Palm Springs, Florida, participates in Career Day each May at the local elementary school.
This year, rather than highlight only city government and the general services provided to residents, village staff from various departments offered separate sessions, including library services, community policing, city administration, and city planning.
The importance of city planning was introduced by pointing out that putting the right things (uses) in the right place makes our community better.
We discussed what we love about where we live. Common answers included:
- Enjoying friends/family living next door
- Being able to walk to school
- Having a public park within walking distance
Students were led in an interactive discussion about what uses we want close to where we live and what uses — although needed in the community — we don't want right next door. It was quickly apparent that our planning apprentices understood negative aspects (traffic, lights, odors/exhaust, noise, etc.) of some uses on surrounding properties. The teachers even got involved in the discussion asking for more details on zoning, landscape buffers, and parking requirements.
We examined having different housing types (single family homes, townhomes, and apartments) because not everyone likes the same thing. Students shared where their parents worked and we discussed having jobs in proximity to where people live and having safe streets, convenient bus stop locations with shelters and benches, and interconnected sidewalks.
The schoolchildren also discussed the need for undeveloped open spaces, agricultural areas for farming, and protection of natural resources, such as our beaches. They enthusiastically shared what type of neighborhood they want to live in when they grow up and what uses they want within walking distance (library, park, and school were the popular answers).
APA Ambassador Kim Glas-Castro led the discussion in seven different 30-minute class periods, speaking to over 130 2nd graders from Palm Springs Elementary School. APA Florida's K-2nd Grade curriculum "Build Your Community" module served as a basis for the activity.
Kim Glas-Castro, AICP, helps students understand and use an aerial map of their community (many of the school children live within walking distance and were excited to find their house on the map). Photo courtesy Laura Buzzetta, Village of Palm Springs, PZ&B Department.
Unfortunately, there was not sufficient time to undertake the full activity we had planned due to the 30-minute limitation of each class. We had prepared a mapping exercise in which each student would create his/her own community, deciding where to locate various uses along a street network. We hope to return to the school to conduct this part of the activity.
Teachers were each given a copy of the Common Core Standards linked to the activity. An aerial map of the elementary school and surrounding area was used to portray the location of a variety of uses and serve as a visual aid to present concepts such as compatibility and separation of uses.
We received excited participation from every class as the students discussed the characteristics of their neighborhood and the qualities of our community that make it a great place to live, work, and play.
Planning as a career choice was new to the youth, who typically hear from police officers, firefighters, nurses, and park rangers. They seemed interested to know that they could have a say in what their community looks like.
Top Image: Palm Springs Elementary School students share what uses they want close to where they live. Photo courtesy Laura Buzzetta, Village of Palm Springs, PZ&B Department.
About the Author
Kimberly Glas-Castro, AICP, is the planning, zoning & building director for the Village of Palm Springs, Florida. She also currently serves on the APA Florida Executive Committee as chapter secretary.