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Thread: Ideas for class exercises

  1. #1

    Ideas for class exercises

    Hi folks,
    I'm teaching an undergrad course in local comprehensive planning, and I'm looking for some nifty ideas for exercises that can be done, preferably within a single class session.

    Since it's comprehensive planning, the subject areas run from soup to nuts-- land use, demographics, econ development, housing, infrastructure, environment, planning politics, citizen participation, growth control, historical preservation...

    Any ideas out there? even better-- does anyone know of a web site where teachers of planning share resources and experience?

  2. #2
    David,

    I am also teaching a class this semester in Environmental Planning. My primary emphasis for this class is to bring a bit of the "real" world to academia. I am trying to incorporate as much of what I am doing in my office into the classroom. I am very close to finishing our Phase II Storm Water Management Plan. When finished, I plan on having the class review and critique the plan. Hopefully this will accomplish two things. First, it will help them develop some critical thinking skills in this area and give them an example of how federal environmental policy works on the local level. Second, it will give me several objective opinions on my plan.

    Some other things that I am doing include having them write a two page paper on their environmental views: do they consider themselves environmentalists, conservationists, protectionists, etc. I am also having them review several media sources to find relevant articles to bring to class for discussion.

    I too would be interested to know if anyone else has had similar experiences as a "guest professor" and if so, what ideas you incorporated into your class.
    A word to the wise ain't necessary. It's the stupid ones that need the advice.
    --Bill Cosby

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    When I was in undergrad, several of my professors were planners at the county planning commission (one was the director). Classes were always geared towards current events, and how to apply the planning principles we were discussing.

    IMHO, a much better teaching method than soem bland repetition of the contents of a planning book.

    In one class, we had to bring in a current "planning" event every week to discuss.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    One environmental planning course I took had a class assignment to study the question of where to locate a new landfill in the county. It was a current issue that the county was dealing with.

    I, and likely most other planners, have topics that we need to research. We would be delighted by the opportunity to pass these on to a class, which might put together a report with recommendations. Most of us would even find some time to work with them.

    Of course, these are not exercises that can be done in a single session, but could give the students areal idea of what is involved in planning.

  5. #5
    In grad school one of the adjunct professors, a local planner, split us into groups and gave us each a generic parcel map of a city and had us prepare a future land use plan for this new imaginary city. The intent was to see what percentages of land was dedicated to business, industry, parks, residential, etc. After each group presented their plans, he went through and explained what worked and what didn't with each plan. This was one of my first planning exercises and it really helped understand many different concepts. He pointed out that every group had put in way too much business/industrial land in proportion to their residential, he also explained things like using multi-family as a transitional use between single family and business.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  6. #6
    By far for me the best experience during my studies were real world simulations. For example, if it is a site design/planning exercise, then something like:

    (1) Provide a local site with all of the site details/history/facts/figures etc...

    (2) Divide class into different interests (planners, developers, politicians, environmental group, citizens) all with pre-established interests and objectives.

    (3) Let groups research information and develop a position regarding issues.

    (4) Let them "work out" the situation during the class.

    It involves alot of work ahead of time, but in my mind pays off more than other experience I have had - students prepare alot ahead of time and get quiet into the roles. Plus, the real world learning experience is incredible.

    Just my two cents...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    It might be a fun idea to have a class split into teams to create a conceptual site plan for a business. It would start people thinking about sight lines, storm water, parking requirements, accessibility and traffic flows, landscaping, lighting, etc.

  8. #8
    I'm teaching a class on plan implementation this quarter. The students are working on rezoning cases. Two people play the role of the applicant the other two the planning staff. They have to prepare an application, staff report and gather all their supporting materials. Then we are holding a hearing with professional planners as the commissioners.

    One component is to look at how the application do or don't meet the comprehensive plan. I'm using real rezoning cases that have recently been heard.

    While you might not have the time to put something like this together. It might work to have students review recent zoning cases and write about how well it fits with what is called for in the comprehensive plan.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Planning Education

    Here's some things that I enjoy that make planning education interesting.

    Field Trips: Get planning students out of the class room and into the community. Show them water plants, drainage structures, wastewater facilities, pump stations, fire stations and other community facilities.

    Tape measures: Walk through neighborhoods with tape measures and have them measure, sketch and describe different site design aspects. This really can show the contrast between the development form of older neighborhoods and suburban subdivisions.

    Attend Public Hearings: Especially after providing background on the public hearing process and the do's and don't of conducting a public hearing. Have a follow up discussion in class.

    Visit Planning Professionals:

    Current Events Discussion:

    Land Use Field Work:

    Role Playing a Mock Public Hearing:

    Almost anything out of the classroom works well.

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