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Helping children re-imagine the city

Getting the child’s perspective in designing our cities is a critical piece of the puzzle towards ensuring they are safe and happy places to live. That’s the view of Aminah Ricks, an urban planner, architect, writer, teacher and mother, in this special article for Child in the City. 

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 conducts after-school classes, hosts in school workshops and consults with elementary teachers on ways to incorporate urban planning concepts into their curriculum. All done with the intention to ignite a passion in young children to re-imagine their city.

‘City-zens’

Our motivation is to reverse the current trend whereby some politicians and planners think of children as an added consideration in city planning, and to instead utilise a youth-oriented point of view, blended into city development. Moreover, we believe that children can become proponents of change, which would benefit all ‘city-zens’. Any metropolitan area that continually faces the challenge of balancing considerations for residents of 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. The final work product was not the focus, but rather the creation of orienting children to city planning.

Design benefits

Further, the goal was to have children consider the ‘who’ and ‘for what’ when designing a public space for the use of many residents all year round. The children demonstrated great depth at using empathy for others when thinking of playgrounds, from adults who would be supervising their children to provision for 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 one association, based in Rome, Italy. They hold fast to “a political motivation: work 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.”

Missing piece

Helping our children to ‘see’ and ‘read’ our cities, helps them feel a part of their community, reinforces their esteem in that their thoughts are crucial and heard. Finally, it shows us, the adults, the missing piece to ensure our cities are healthy, safe, eco-friendly and joyful places to live.”

From workshops, to after school enrichment classes, to tailored curriculum, Future Planners helps children feel considered and capable of having a tangible impact in the evolution of our cities.  For further information http://futureplanners.city/

Author: Aminah Ricks

2 comments op “Helping children re-imagine the city”

Megha Tyagi|26.04.18|15:54

It is indeed a question always as to ‘how to include children in the urban designing process of neighbourhoods or any public spaces of our cities?’ Collaborating with elementary school teachers is a positive initiative. Providing vital skills of understanding the local surroundings to children ultimately leads to nurturing a whole bunch of well-aware and responsible future citizens of our cities.

Aminah Ricks|30.04.18|17:00

Hi Megha, thanks for your thoughtful question of “how to include children” in the urban designing process. One option could be to present quantitative and qualitative questions to children about their community via surveys. This gives them a concrete way to engage and share their perspective with city planners/politicians. Feel free to write me directly to continue the conversation. 🙂

Yes, the goal is to motivate children of today to become active participants in our cities of tomorrow.

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