UrbanPlan is offered at over 30 high schools in economics or government courses in the junior and senior years. In the 15 class hours of the curriculum, students form development teams to respond to a “request for proposals” for the redevelopment of a blighted site in a fictional community. Each team member assumes one of five roles: Finance Director, Marketing Director, City Liaison, Neighborhood Liaison, or Site Planner.
Through these roles, students develop a visceral understanding of how various market forces (supply and demand, availability of capital, risk vs reward, etc.) clash and collaborate with non-market forces (regulation, politics, advocacy groups, etc.) to create the built environment. They must reconcile the often-competing agendas to create a well-designed, market-responsive, financeable, and buildable project.
Create Engaged Citizens
The curriculum was developed for and is only supported in economics and selected government classes. The curriculum aligns with all state and national content standards for high school economics and provides a much-needed local government component to government classes.
How UrbanPlan Works in the Classroom
Teams address challenging financial, market, social, political, and design issues, develop a pro forma, and create a three-dimensional model of their plan. At strategic times during the project, land use professionals, who have attended a full day of UrbanPlan volunteer training, interact with the student teams. There are two facilitations where professionals visit the teams and challenge the students on their roles, their vision, and the decisions they have made using Socratic interaction. The module culminates when the teams present their proposal to a “City Council” of ULI members that awards the development contract to the winning team.
Through Socratic interaction, volunteers challenge the students to think more critically about the UrbanPlan issues and the specific responsibilities of their “role” (Financial Analyst, Marketing Director, Site Planner, City Liaison, Neighborhood Liaison).
UrbanPlan volunteers engage in interactive discussions with students on the member’s own project work. Through thoughtful questioning, the presenter helps students relate these issues and decisions to struggles the students are experiencing in UrbanPlan.
UrbanPlan volunteers hear student presentations, challenge their proposals as would happen in an actual city council hearing, and award the development contract to the winning development team.
WHAT TEACHERS SAY ABOUT URBANPLAN
Economics, Desert Vista High School, Phoenix, Arizona
“Developing student capacities for critical thinking and dispassionate analysis of complex issues makes them more effective, informed, and demagogue-proof participants in civil society—whether they are addressing UrbanPlan’s land use challenges or health care or immigration issues. UrbanPlan is the most powerful and engaging vehicle I have found to accomplish this objective.”
Economics Master, The Boston Latin School, Boston, Mass.
“Project/problem-based learning [PBL] curricula are often oversold by PBL advocates. PBLs often provide attractive headlines or TV news clips, but must be extraordinarily well crafted pedagogically and logistically to accomplish valuable results—especially given the amount of time required. UrbanPlan stands out as the most professionally constructed and supported program that I’ve worked with in my 27 years of teaching.”
Read what Education Dive has to say about UrbanPlan here.
If you are an educator interested in learning more about UrbanPlan and would like to see if there is a ULI office in your region, please contact us at [email protected].