As part of the 2017 American Planning Association’s Ambassador Program, a group of planners from around the Rockford Metro Region visited Belvidere High School on Friday, April 7, 2017. The group was comprised of Nathan Bruck, AICP City Planner for the City of Loves Park, Gina DelRose, Planner for the City of Belvidere, David Sidney, AICP Project Director for Transform Rockford, and Ben Rohr, Land Use Planner for Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Together they visited Diane Kane’s classroom to introduce the students to planning, zoning, and development.
The visit was made up of a variety of activities: a brief presentation outlining zoning and good/bad examples of it within the City of Belvidere, a zoning related board game, and a mock development design activity. First, the class was introduced to the basic principal of zoning and shown examples of how it has shaped the world they see today. Then, in small groups, students played the Blocks and Lots board game to illustrate the theory of zoning and the multitude of interests within a community. Finally, the class got an opportunity to design a development of their choosing on a large piece of agricultural land just outside of the City of Belvidere. The land was specifically chosen because it is an area that the class will be utilizing for a future project during the semester. In order to help guide the students and demonstrate the many forms development can take, the professional planners created parameters in which to work (a mock zoning code) and required elements for each group’s development. Additionally, each group had a planner within it to help answer questions and provide advice. The results varied (see images below), but each group came away with the beginnings of their own new development.
In total, the students were provided a brief introduction to zoning, exposed to the theory behind it, and given a chance to put it into action. The visit was ultimately successful in that the majority of students were engaged and asking meaningful questions throughout. Additionally, after the event, Mrs. Kane reached out to the group of planners and was extremely grateful for the time and effort that had been put into the activities.
Overall, the APA Ambassador’s Activity at Belvidere High School was a very meaningful experience for both the students and the planning professionals. It was the first of several trips this year that planners from around the Rockford Region will be taking to local schools as part of the program.