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Thread: Presentation on planning for a group of nine-year olds

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area

    Presentation on planning for a group of nine-year olds


    This Monday, I'm going to be doing a 5 minute talk on planning to a group of 4th graders. I've never done anything like this, and I know that 9 year olds aren't going to care about rezonings, facade easements, or stormwater retention policies. How can I make planning sound cool to a group of kids this age? I know it won't be as simple as saying "we decide where sidewalks go and where buildings are built" because the Mayor, DPW chief, and Park & Rec director will be there and I've gotta take them into consideration. I'm pretty sure most 9 year olds wouldn't have played SimCity (although I was a dork and did play it when I was a little older than these kids). Thanks....

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    I would turn the tables on them a bit and ask THEM a bunch of planning-related questions. Ask term if they know what a planner does. Ask them what they think a good town or city needs to function. Ask them if they would like a cement plant next to the school and then use that as a way to explain why we separate land uses. Bada-bing! You're outta there.

    Or something like that...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
    Mar 2002
    Don't 9 year olds play with Legos? Break planning down into things such as Legos that are a kid friendly level. Talk about things like schools, playgrounds, neighborhoods and parks these are things they can see and understand. Theory, politics etc are items I would avoid.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  4. #4

    Teaching Planning

    Ok well this may be a late response because it's 1:28 in the afternoon however I hope you do get to read this.

    I recently did a Junior Achievement class and I am currently still teaching 3rd graders twice a week about "PLANNING". 5 total sessions.

    This Junior Achievement organization gave out little plastic brief cases with an entire lesson plan and it has worked wonders so far. ( 45 min class time)

    The first thing was introduction- tell them who you are, what you do, how long you went to school, creating maps, reading blue prints etc.
    One of the other big things is asking them questions - they come up with some good answers so be prepared to hold in some laughter. PLUS everyone of them will have an answer so it's a good use of taking up some time...

    Example questions include
    Ask if they know the definitions of
    volunteer- zone- construction- blueprints- ( quality ) scale- entrepreneur- cul-de-sac- right of way- ask them to name some tools that may have been used to construct the room they are sitting in right now....
    Do all the house on your street seem like they are the same distance from the road? ETC.

    Bringing a blue print- or subdivision file may help there may be some extras lying around the office that have no current use. Take this and ask some of the students to measure the front yard width, the building width etc.

    BELIEVE IT OR NOT THEY WILL AMAZE YOU.... Come up with some examples of land use and zoning. As (wahday) mentioned the cement plant next to a school I mentioned farming and agricultural uses in the middle of a subdivision. Reasons include- SMELLS- FARMING HOURS FROM 5 am till 9 PM ( INCLUDING WEEKENDS) when they want to sleep in on Saturdays farmers are still working. ETC.

    Parks can easily be mentioned and how we plan for them to be used by the public so we may want them close to a residential district...


    PS My bet is you will be able to talk for a half an hour without even looking at the clock.. LOL

  5. #5
    nlmets99 has some good ideas and I would suggest bringing in a large aerial photograph of the school neighborhood, say at 1:100. If the shcool neighborhood doesn't offer much to talk about, find another neighborhood that does and use that. Point out the school playground, parking lot, houses, roads, parks, you name it.

    Fourth graders here in Indiana typically have a unit on local government and begin basic map reading skills, so they might well surprise you with what they know.

    Hope ya have fun!

  6. #6

    Planning for 9 year olds

    Many of the previous ideas are quite helpful. 5 minutes is an extremely small period of time. You should offer to follow up after class or come back for a longer session (check with the teacher or parents first). You can emphasize the sense of accomplishment from making important, lasting things happen, and the excitement of solving puzzles presented by regulations, natural features, costs, etc. Also, emphasize the "artistic" and "expressive" side of the profession.

    I volunteer with cub scouts and brownies from time to time. They are 9 years old. Studies show students this age are starting to build their own "forts" and "special places". They are still very visual and tactile. Tack up a few large maps, aerial photos, or original drawings AFTER introductions (they will get easily distracted). Many of them are fascinated with "real" construction and development. Some may even have construction videos at home.

    They are starting to expand their own little worlds beyond the home and school. When asked to map their favorite places outside their home they will often include a special climbing tree or a store where they can buy their own snacks. Mention that planners can help protect these special places and even help create them. Many 9 year olds are quite creative and enjoy drawing, making crafts, and solving puzzles or playing video games with advanced rules and worlds or levels.

    Children of this age are often led by adults in building bird houses. You might mention that even birdhouses need planning like size of hole, shape of house, height on tree, location like edge of forest or in center of forest, proximity to water and food, proximity to similar bird houses (size of territory), mix of bird houses (possibly attracting predators or competitors). Distinguish between planner, builder, and other players roles.

    Auto transportation, such as family or car pooling to ballet or sports is a very social event and has little to do with the specific layout of streets. Kids are very aware when parents get upset due to bad traffic flow or can't find convenient paking, because it usually "kills" the socializing that goes on while traveling. Due to adults driving cars, they are generally unaware of the exact details of how they get from one place to another. Emphasize safe streets where kids can walk, bike, and play.

    Feed their natural curiosity. Give them something to think about, and remember. Show a few books (appropriate to this age level) from the local public library they could take out. National Science Foundation studies show that students are making career choices between 5th and 8th grade. Assume they have never heard of "Planning" as a profession. Start at the VERY beginning and link everything to their own personal experiences. They frequently decide that they "love" this field or are "no good at" that subject in these early grades. They will steer all class choices and special project choices for years based on these early feelings. NSF has identified this as one of the primary reasons the entire field of engineering is shrinking in the US. Kids don't need to understand all the technical details, they just need to be inspired (feel good enough about it to keep on looking into it).

    Best of luck. Let us know how it goes.

  7. #7

    Planning for 9 year olds - Sense of Place

    Developmental studies also show that 9 year olds are developing a "Sense of Place". They develop strong personal identification with "places" including a very narrow range of natural areas, topography, or type of man-made development. Harvard studies show that the "Sense of Place" increases with direct contact, and sharing the "Place" with peers, or significant adults such as relatives, or trusted adult mentors. (Grandparents, Uncles, or Youth Leaders.)

    Other studies show the attachment to these early and deep-felt "Places" and shared experiences last a lifetime and can be significant influencers of future career selection and location for jobs, colleges, and long-term residence. If you've heard people say they'd "love to live in a certain type of location", It is highly likely that it goes back to this time-frame and set of experiences in their lives. Studies have also interviewed people who work in outdoor settings and found that many can remember a particular Place that inspired them to pursue a career related to the outdoors. Usually this is a direct result of this "Sense of Place" developed in their youth.

    As far as the presentation to the 9 year olds you might mention one of the most interesting aspects of Planning as a profession is visiting, appreciating, and perhaps even creating or preserving more such special places through Planning. You could briefly follow up on this by asking some students to describe their favorite places and how those places make them feel. Large time blocks of unstructured exploration and play are commonly reported. This helps to tie the Planning Profession message with strong personal and positive emotions for each of the 9 year olds.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
    Jun 2003
    De Noc
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    nlmets99 has some good ideas and
    I would suggest bringing in a large aerial photograph of the school neighborhood,
    Hope ya have fun!
    I agree with Gedunker.
    I would print a poster size aerial off your GIS to leave with them, if you could.
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)

    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  9. #9

    How did it go?

    How did your presentation on Planning to 9 year olds go?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area
    It went really well! It was in a Q&A format so it was mostly me answering questions on the profession and about what my typical day is like. I really liked the kids and got to pose for a picture with them afterward. I'd do it again in a second.

  11. #11
    Were any of the posts helpful? Should more people consider talking with students?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area
    They were, and yes, they should. I didn't even know what planning was until halfway through undergrad. The public at large thinks that the built environment is something that just happens, rather than being the result of a process. It's better to plant that seed with people earlier, rather than later.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian plnrgrl's avatar
    Jan 2007
    the Emerald Coast

    Box City

    I have worked with fifth graders presenting Box City as a day long event. It is so much fun! The kids get to plan their own city, based off a blank block map of an older section of town. They get to decide where to zone their different uses. We have a presentation in the morning to educate them in the basics. Then they build their town on the ground with the boxes they have decorated themselves. This last time, one group put the mall in the middle of their neighborhood so they could walk to it. Smart kids!

  14. #14
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
    Oct 2002
    Under the Table
    Blog entries
    MJ.... same as a Village Board.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

    Renovating the '62 Metzendorf

  15. #15
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area
    Quote Originally posted by tsc View post
    MJ.... same as a Village Board.
    TSC.... give me the 9 year olds ANY DAY over a local board.

  16. #16
    Dec 1997
    Huntington, West Virginia

    Making Planning Cool for Kids

    There are probably a host of ways to approach kids with planning, but one of the best may be to have them sit around one of those floor coverings that have the roads and buildings laid out on them and then ask them to close their eyes and think of where their parents shop for groceries, where they go to school, where they go to church, where the fire station is located, where their parents buy gasoline, where they go to the park to play and where they go to the mall and then explain why those places are located where they are.............you can also build lttle communities with colored blocks as well and talk about why certain uses end up at certain places on the ground.....hopefully in that community - planning.

    Another idea is to prepare several exhibits of the same property with different land uses on the property and ask which one they think is best to occupy that tract of land. That engages their imagination and its memorable for them.

    H2O Planner

  17. #17

    May 2007
    Athens, Georgia

    I know it is too late...

    what if you ask the kids to design a park... like a short KaBoom! program (http://kaboom.org/ ). Kids will have ideas where the swings / slides should go... and water fountains... and bike racks... and benches..

  18. #18
    Kevin Lynch did some research where he had kids drawing maps of their neighborhoods and commenting on what was good and not good about it. The way kids see the built environment is really pretty interesting and they'll be able to engage you about it. You'll probably be surprised what the kids know about place. Also, building blocks (or models if you work with them) are great tools for kids.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
    Jul 2004
    Juneau, AK
    I did a presentation to a bunch of 5th graders on planning a few years ago. I kept it simple and talked about setbacks and buildable envelopes, and then threw a couple of different zoning districts and a few oddities like our setback from salmon streams into the mix. They had a blast figuring out where they could build a house on the example lots that I gave them, and it tied into another project they were doing where they designed their dream home (which had to fit into the buildable envelope of the lot).

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