Updated: Jan 2, 2020
On April 12, 2018 the Student Planning Organization (SPO) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign held a public outreach event at the Champaign Public Library for middle school students. The approximately two-hour long event was held as part of the library’s after school programming which provides local 6th – 8th graders with a safe and social space to go after dismissal.
SPO worked with Kathie Kading, the coordinator of the program and teen librarian, to introduce younger students to the field of Urban Planning. The students were placed in small groups, and an existing program called Box City was utilized to introduce planning concepts. Box City is a collaborative, open-ended, and creative process that challenges students to design their own city using small cardboard boxes and craft supplies. Our hope was to spark an interest in the field and introduce kids to a profession they may have never heard of before.
Most students participated in one of the three groups, working together with peers to design and build a three-dimensional, model city. At times, SPO facilitators David Su, Alli Young, or Andrew Koteras offered guidance and asked groups questions with the intention of sparking new ideas, for example “what kinds of public amenities should a good city have?” or “what are your favorite areas to visit right here in Champaign?” From roads and bridges, to police stations, hospitals, housing, and parks, these students understood the basics of planning and its connection to creating well-functioning communities.
This event introduced students to the field of urban planning and the role it plays in creating a better society. In the future, SPO expects to do more student engagement activities like this to promote our field and spark an interest in the next generation of planners.