Kids Get Hands-on City Planning Experience

Kids Get Hands-on City Planning Experience
Posted on 06/01/2016

What happens when nearly 150 fifth and sixth grade students get together to plan a community? You get an innovative program called Box City that teaches students about city planning, land use and zoning.

Cottonwood Heights was one of the first cities that participated in the Box City program with Jordan School District, dedicating staff members to the four-week program held at Blackridge Elementary in Herriman, Utah.

Cottonwood Heights Community and Economic Development Director Brian Berndt, City Planners Glen Goins and Mike Johnson, and Business Development Coordinator Peri Kinder worked with students to teach concepts that included architecture, urban design, engineering, construction and map-making. They also learned how to determine the scale of blueprints, building heights and city blocks.

Students involved in the program created homes, public buildings, factories and commercial areas using foam blocks and lots of imagination.

During the final workshop, each class presented their buildings to the planning commission for approval and placed structures on a land-use map they had created in class.

“The student planning commissioners really got involved in the process, often debating the location of a building, or the potential re-zoning of an area,” Kinder said. “Plus, their buildings were so creative. It was fun watching them build their cities.”

One student planning commissioner was asked why she moved a building from one side of the street to the other. She replied, “Because I’m a planning commissioner.”

This is the first time the program has been offered to Utah students in more than 20 years. Educators hope to expand the program to other schools next year.