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April 24, 2003

kids in urban planning

I wrote part of a grant proposal today that would allow our high school students to conduct research connected to nutrition, exercise, and obesity. They would identify local opportunities for recreational exercise and healthy food, and also local sources of unhealthy food and barriers to exercise (such as streets without sidewalks). They would place these items on an online, public map along with the routes of local buses and Metrorail. Their goals would be (a) to show local residents how they can get to healthy opportunities; and (b) to show local policymakers how inaccessible certain important opportunities are.

At the same time, students could calculate how much unhealthy food (i.e., grams of fat) can be purchased in various locations for one dollar, versus how much healthy food can be bought. These figures could also be displayed on a map. Students could then compare statistics from comparable areas such as Takoma Park or Silver Spring, MD.

I have been thinking more generally about how young people—especially non-college-bound kids and kids of color—can learn to play a role in local decisions about zoning, economic development, and transportation. They are disproportionately affected by these decisions, yet they rarely participate in public meetings or discussions. CIRCLE has identified "non-college youth" as a group that does not vote, does not attend community meetings or join local groups, and does not have the knowledge necessary to participate. Furthermore, habits of participation or non-participation are usually set in adolescence, so unless we find ways to involve these young people while they are still in high school, chances are they will be uninvolved for the rest of their lives. One promising idea is to get them interested in using technological tools for urban planning, such as the many wonderful products described by PlaceMatters.com.

April 24, 2003 11:40 AM | category: a high school civics class | Comments


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