By Meredith Phillips
The Academy of Urban Planning in Brooklyn taps into the curiosity of high school students about their environment, teaches skills needed for modern careers, and puts the students on a path aimed towards higher education. As a program manager at this new school, I have seen how students are learning how to use urban planning knowledge and GIS skills to advocate for community improvements. Through unique partnerships with community organizations, planning agencies and institutions of higher learning, students are learning how to use urban planning knowledge and GIS skills to advocate for community improvements.
Partnership With Brooklyn Center for Urban Environment
The Academy of Urban Planning (AUP) in Bushwick, Brooklyn was formed as part of the New Century High School Initiatives, which aims to reform large traditional urban high schools and transform them into smaller learning environments. The concept and proposal for AUP was developed by a team of educators, parents/guardians, consultants and the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment (the Center), the school’s lead partner, in October 2002. The school opened its doors to students in September 2003. Those same students will begin their senior year in fall of 2006, when the school’s total population will reach approximately 475 students.
For over twenty-five years, the Center has engaged young minds in activities that promote curiosity and exploration of New York City ‘s urban environments. The Center delivers programs on the built and natural environment for nearly 100,000 students and adults each year in all five boroughs of New York City , celebrating and encouraging stewardship of urban waterways, landscapes, architecture and life.
The Center is the lead partner for three New Visions high schools: the Academy of Urban Planning , Academy of Environmental Leadership and the Green School : An Academy for Environmental Careers. As AUP’s lead partner, the Center provides support through staff training, workshops for students and parents, and theme-integration programming.
The mission of the Academy of Urban Planning is to help students use their leadership abilities to achieve academic success. With support from educators, parents and guardians of diverse races, ethnicities and cultures, AUP is working to forge a lasting spirit of community. We strive to be a school where students and parents are welcome; where teachers and staff work collaboratively; and where parents are engaged as partners with the school to provide an exemplary education for students. We empower students to acquire the academic and social tools they need in order to pursue their interests by stimulating learning, discovery and self-expression.
Why Urban Planning?
The urban planning, theme-based curriculum draws students out of the classroom and into their communities to develop skills that will move them toward higher education andcareers , utilizing their natural desire to explore and create.
When students arrive at AUP, they are not necessarily interested in pursuing a career in urban planning or even a related field. We develop our programming with the following questions in mind:
Our answers to these questions have guided the development and implementation of a 4-year program that incorporates technology skill-building, service learning, civic engagement and community advocacy.
Theme Integration Model
Class Projects . We create projects that connect regular subject area curricula with urban planning and urban studies issues, concepts and vocabulary. For example, 9th grade students participated in one of the following projects as part of the English Language Arts or English as a Second Language classes.
Course Electives . These courses meet every day, offering the opportunity for more advanced study and analysis of urban issues through experiential learning.
Extracurricular activities . We are lucky to have access to many fantastic programs offered by non-profit and educational organizations throughout New York City . These programs often incorporate neighborhood exploration, design, leadership development and community activism, as well as complement our own theme-related programs.
Jobs and Internships. The most authentic experiential learning opportunities occur when students can apply the skills and knowledge they learn in courses and projects in the field or workplace. Below are a few examples of student internships.
How Does it Work?
We owe all of our successes to the willingness of our students to look at change in their communities with fresh eyes, and the willingness of our teachers to learn about urban planning issues and trends and to open their classrooms to partners and supporters. We provide training and orientation to our faculty and staff, since most of them arrive with little experience or exposure to urban planning (but with a desire to learn!), but the most important piece of our theme integration model is partnership. Our collaborationswith community organizations, planning agencies and institutions of higher learning provide authentic hands-on experiences for our students as well meaningful professional development for our staff.
Adapted from a presentation entitled “Urban Planning Curriculum for High School Students” in the “Training Young Planners” conference session. Meredith Phillips is a program manager at the Academy of Urban Planning . To find out more about the Academy, please visit http://www.aupnyc.org , or contact Meredith firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information about the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment, please visit www.bcue.org.