Last Friday I participated in Plan-It Earth, a student-organized forum that engaged about 120 high-school students in designing a sustainable future for the GVRD.
Facilitated by students at Prince of Wales Secondary with the help of Bruce Ford and Vanessa Lee from Metro Vancouver, participants were invited to look through the lenses of urban planners and decide where the next 10,000 people in the region should be located and what those communities should look like. There was a lot of focus on building up instead of out and having work located close to home to reduce commute times and transit-related emissions. Solutions to meet energy and food requirements were presented, and concerns about how to handle waste were expressed. A number of innovative green technologies were highlighted, as well as the need for inclusive communities and education.
By mid-morning students were engaged in a variety of workshops. Ian Marcuse presented a cob house demo, there was a student-led workshop on backyard chickens, and Kevin Millsip presented the Vancouver School Board’s Sustainability Plan. Amanda Mitchell engaged students in thinking about how the 10 goals of the City of Vancouver’s Greenist City 2020 Plan can be met, and I had students participate in a memory mapping exercise focused on their routes to and from school, with a focus on walking and active transportation.
After a lunch of organic locally sourced salad and pizza, it was time for City on the Wall. An engagement process developed by architect Stanley King, the founder of Co-Design and a firm believer in the importance of engaging youth in urban planning and design processes. Students were split into 10-12 groups, each with an artist to design their ideal livable community. Most of these reiterated the values identified in the morning sessions with a focus on sustainable, complete communities that accommodate a range of daily activities and requirements within the radius of a few blocks.
During the Green Mapping workshop I was surprised to learn that a number of students don’t know the names of streets in their neighbourhoods. One participant commented that she doesn’t need to know street names because she knows where things are and has no need to remember the names. I’m curious to know whether this a common occurrence? Not just with youth, but in general. I can still fairly accurately recall the names of the streets in almost every neighbourhood I’ve lived in (and there have been many). While some are a bit foggy, I think I could still draw a map and correctly label the streets of the neighbourhoods from my childhood and youth.
This was an incredibly inspiring and valuable experience. I gained a lot of insight into the world of youth engagement, and look forward to doing more of it in the future. Thank you everyone!