Seventh Graders Picture a Safer, Livelier School Zone

Asking kids how they would re-design their streets is a revealing exercise. Students concerned about sustainability have a lot to say about their built environment, and they say it with conviction.

This May and June, Livable Streets Education led a six-week project with seventh graders from the Mott Hall II school, a public school located on 109th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. We asked them to imagine a public realm that was greener, safer, and better for their community. Working in groups, they helped create photo simulations of their ideas, then wrote letters to local officials with their recommendations.

Here’s a look at their work and how they made it:

When we introduced the students to progressive concepts in street design, they immediately had strong opinions about how to improve their streets. While many adults appear to perceive public spaces as inflexible and static, young people are less encumbered. They tend to see the full range of possibilities for the use of their streets.

  • Is there any doubt that we’d be far better off if we replaced the Department of City Planning with 7th graders?

  • Kenney

    Seventh graders led by Janette Sadik-Khan!

  • Erin

    Right. I love these drawings and their ideas, but the article does hint at the process by which these were made. There seem to have been groups called “bus lane group” and “bike lane group”; both bus lanes and bike lanes are used rather infrequently around the city (bike lanes have become more prevalent, yes). That alone steers the conversation and the end result in a certain direction. Nevertheless, these are some great ideas, and not just the bike/bus lanes. The street & sidewalk treatments are wonderful too. Fun pavements, places to sit, jovial street furnishings. I wish. In reality, it’s pretty hard to get the city to embrace anything that isn’t standard… although these kids may be in luck. Beautiful streets with slightly less non-standard design solutions are more likely to happen in the UWS than in South/Central/Outer Brooklyn, non-LIC Queens, the Bronx, S.I., etc…

  • Johan S

    Great success story for sharing with other classrooms! Really cool to see what students are capable of creating when we give them the opportunity. From what I’ve read on Sustainability education – encouraging future visioning is a critical component in effective and empowering ed – and you guys have pulled it off – in vivid colour! Thank you for sharing this and keep up the great work.

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