A city is most fairly judged by how it invites and supports children into its urban fabric.
Children see and experience our cities at shorter heights, with fresher eyes and absorbent minds. It is our jobs as city planners and adults to incorporate a child’s perspective into our thinking about the cityscape. Future Planners* (a company supported by Emerging City) began conducting workshops last spring, with that very intention, to ignite a passion in young children to reimagine the city.
The motivation of Future Planners is to reverse the current trend whereby some politicians and planners think of children as an added consideration in city planning, and to instead utilize a youth oriented point of view, blended into city development. Moreover, Future Planners believes that children can become proponents of change, which would benefit everyone. Any metropolitan area that continually balances the considerations of its city-zens of all ages, is a better and safer place for all.
So, what happens when children funnel up to adults their creative thoughts and ideas on urban interventions? Future Planners conducted a workshop “Plan a Playground” at The Coop School in Brooklyn which motivated students to use analysis, observation and idea generation to create an ideal playground in 3-D models and a mural.
And final work product was not the focus, rather it was the creation of orienting children to city planning. Further, the goal was to have children consider “for whom” and “for what” when designing a public space, for residents to use all year round. The children demonstrated great depth and agency at using empathy for others when thinking of playgrounds, from adults who would be supervising their children to pets, these students showed a wide range of brainstorming design benefits for the public realm.
Child-centered city planning is not a new concept. La Citta’ di Bambini (The City of Children) is another like-minded association, based in Rome, Italy. They hold fast to “a political motivation: work[ing] toward a new governmental philosophy of the city, engaging the children as parameters and as guarantors of the needs of all citizens. Not, therefore, a greater commitment towards an increase in the resources and services for children, but towards a different and better city for all, so that the children too can live an experience as autonomous and participating citizens.”
Helping our children to “see”, “read” and “feel” our cities, helps them feel a part of their community, reinforces their esteem in that their thoughts are crucial and heard and finally, shows us the adults, the missing piece to ensure our cities are healthy, safe, eco-friendly and joyful places to live.
*From workshops and after school enrichment classes, to tailored STEAM curriculum, Future Planners helps children feel considered and capable of having a tangible impact in the evolution of our cities. For further information contact Future Planners.
Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks