November 22, 2011

Planning from a Third-Grader's Perspective

The American Planning Association publishes popular urban planning curriculum.

CHICAGO — Bay Area third-grade teacher and planner John Martoni took education curriculum to new heights when he created Metropolis: A Green City of Your Own, multidisciplinary curriculum for grades 3–6. Martoni wanted to introduce students to various urban forms while teaching them to incorporate their own creative design techniques, cultural elements and new visions into city blueprints.

"I was alarmed that my students' vision of the 'ideal city' consisted of mini-malls, parking lots and big-box stores," said Martoni. "I decided to create a curriculum that would expose children to a variety of urban forms from around the world."

The concept enables students to build their own ideal cities by equipping them with the skills to diagnose problems and create positive solutions for communities. The lessons range from environmental sustainability, transportation, public spaces and landmarks. Metropolis seeks to bridge mathematics, social studies, art, science and health into the implementation of new community development.

The curriculum discusses the goals of UNESCO's Education for Sustainable Development Initiative by:

  • Encouraging urban development that combines environmental peace, cultural influence, and social equality.
  • Fostering the relationship among students in local neighborhoods that bring universal benefits.
  • Having in-depth participation while being creative and exciting.
  • Strengthening the ideas of being open-minded and productive citizens of society.

Metropolis can be used as a stand-alone unit or prior to building a "box city." It is a CD-ROM that includes handouts for students and complete instructions for teachers.

Martoni has been teaching Metropolis since 2008 and was recently published by the American Planning Association in September 2011. Metropolis received special recognition by the Association of Architecture Organizations 2011 U.S. Architecture & Children Golden Cubes Awards jury and praise from California State Senator Ellen Corbett and the Departments of Education and Planning at San Jose University for its emphasis on diverse low-income communities.

John Martoni is an elementary school teacher for the Hayward Unified School District in Hayward, California. Metropolis: A Green City of Your Own is available from for $35.


Roberta Rewers, APA Public Affairs; 312-786-6395;