An innovative program in Colorado incorporates children’s ideas into urban planning to create friendlier, greener, and more inclusive spaces.
What would cities look like if children could have a say in their design? You would certainly be friendlier, says Mara Mintzer, one of the authors of the new book Placemaking with children and adolescents: participatory practices for planning sustainable communities, The director of Boulder growing up– a program from the University of Colorado at Boulder Community design and engagement center—Mintzer has engaged young people of all ages to help city planners think outside the box and create more inclusive spaces for their community.
Researchers Louise Chawla and Victoria Derr, lead authors of the book at Mintzer, looked at Growing Up Boulder and found that this innovative program – and others who like it – benefits both children and cities. you research shows that involving children increases their commitment to citizen participation and promotes the creation of cities green, healthier living spaces for everyone.
Why involve children in urban planning?
Jill Suttie from the University of Berkeley Bigger good magazine, spoke to Mintzer about why she is so passionate about involving children in the design of cities and what happens when you give children a voice.
Jill Suttie: Why do you think it is important to involve children in urban planning?
Mara Mintzer: “Children appreciate things that are often ousted by big money interests. In practically every job we have ever done with children, they (especially younger children) are demanding more and more nature in their rooms – more animals, more plants, more flowers, more colors. It’s just part of how they’re organically designed. They are “biophile” like E. O. Wilson talks about.
“Even with children Services She. The children recognize that they have a voice in their own communities and want to continue to be involved. As an example, we just interviewed some of the sixth grade children who worked with us on redesigning a particular area of the city three years ago, and 100 percent said children should always be involved in such processes, and 71 percent said this work would make them more likely to become involved in society in the future – either at home, at school or in the city. “
JS: What does a child-friendly city look like?
MM: From what I’ve learned from the children, these are places where children can go alone without having to rely on an adult. So this means that separate cycling and hiking trails are not directly on the road. It means “Eyes on the street“- Buildings that face the street and people that populate the streets – so families can let their kids run comfortably. It means more green spaces in which people live because so much land has been built on.
“We enjoy it a bit for young people”
“I don’t know anything about you, but when I was a kid we just went to our back yard and there were acres of forest we could build in to build fortresses and things. Children don’t have that now we have preserved, we often focus so much on protecting nature that it will not be damaged and that we have taken the joy out of it for young people. I understand the tension, but if you want create Environmentally responsible people for the next generation must be happy with it. You can’t just ask them to watch it from a distance. So if you make sure that natural green spaces are available exactly where you live, you have these options. “
JS: In yours TEDx TalkThey said that children tend to design cities where play and social connection take precedence. In which way?
MM: “One thing we often hear from teenagers is that they intentionally feel excluded from public space. They want spaces that allow them to be in public, but a little out of the way so that they can hang out with their peers and watch what’s going on. They don’t want to be excluded, but they want spaces to accommodate them.
“If we create spaces in which several generations can mix the research shows that connectivity improves our entire life. Even these micro-interactions with people you don’t necessarily know help to connect. Our kids want to go to the park and just get in touch with friends. With on-site designs, however, everyone is often withdrawn in their own garden and does not interact. Children want common rooms in which their parents can still keep an eye, but can meet independently and get in touch with others. “
“The teachers noticed that the children were interested in what was there”
JS: I understand that you work with children as young as toddlers. How are your views added to the design?
MM: “To work with the younger children, a well-trained teacher – often with that Reggio Emilia or child-centered approach – can observe how children interact with different spaces or locations. For example, we worked with a preschool and the little ones (the toddlers) rated 19th Street [in Boulder]that has no great sidewalks. The teachers noticed that the children were very interested in what was around them on the floor and in the room they were in. They also noted that the children could run to the street if there was no barrier between the sidewalk and the street. So the teachers helped translate their observations about the use of space by the children, and this expressed the design of this street. “
JS: Do you think that there is something about children that helps them to look at problems differently or to find new solutions?
MM: “Alison Gopnik [at UC Berkeley] talks a lot about how children are actually more creative than adults because they don’t have a really solid framework for how things should be. So you can think creatively. We have found that our children find really interesting solutions to problems that adults would not think of.
“They are also so bizarre in their thinking. I saw that when I went to a children’s conference in Denmark. They were fun and moody Denmark in a way that we don’t have in most of the United States. We take ourselves too seriously, even though research shows that playing is really good for our mental and physical health. Children remind us when we are ready to listen. “
JS: Who else does this kind of work besides Growing Up Boulder?
MM: “In the United States, participative planning processes take place with young people, for example in Monterey Bay in the US state of California Professor Derror from the Children’s Environment Working Group at CUNY.
“We know a lot more about international colleagues who run“ child-friendly city initiatives ”like Growing Up Boulder than about similar programs in the United States. Our work is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – which is a 1989 treaty that all countries except the United States have ratified. The United States has established offices around the world where these child / city initiatives are carried out. These are implemented across the country. Ghent, BelgiumFor example, it has an amazing child-friendly initiative process. But we really don’t have that. “
“The majority of people who are not active in this area are initially skeptical”
“In the truest sense of the word, UNICEF USA has just founded its own company child-friendly city Ast. And we just found out that they also call themselves a child-friendly city in Jacksonville, Florida. I’ve been doing this work for 10 years and none of us knew about each other. There are child-friendly cities all over the world, but Jacksonville has not yet attended any of the conferences that I attended or that I did academic papers in in the same journals. So there is a real separation in the US that we are trying to bring together. “
JS: How do adult participants react to the idea of involving children in the planning?
MM: “There are some people who think it makes sense, but the majority of people who are not in this area are skeptical at first. However, when they actually start interacting with the children, listening to and engaging with the children’s ideas, their thinking changes … to the point that we have more requests than we can accept from the city departments. It’s just exciting to see the power it has. “
JS: Are these creative ideas shot down by city planners?
MM:Yes sure. One problem concerns funding and the way we allocate funding. In our study, all groups of children I worked with, from middle school to high school, asked for a zip code. They also want really big climbing areas with trampolines. This is absolutely doable because I have traveled the world and seen how it was implemented elsewhere. But they don’t have the means to do it. If you ask the Parks and Rec department, they will say they cannot afford it. The zip lines are too broken and the installation too expensive. We would have to run an awareness campaign to change thinking or interest in creating these spaces. It’s frustrating, especially when you know what the best practice is, but it’s not being implemented. “
“People worry about liability, but they do Research says Adventure playgrounds are no more dangerous than a traditional playground. And yet the cities are afraid of it. It is a beautiful Risk-benefit assessment This assessment was driven by the UK Gaming Safety Forum. Organizations can use this assessment to set precedents that help them limit liability. If an organization is really interested, there are many options and structures that can help them do this. But they have to be ready to take this first step. “
Jill Suttie, Psy.D. is the editor of Greater Good’s book review and is a regular contributor to the magazine. This article was originally published in the Greater Good magazine.
Note: We are not the author of this content. For the Authentic and complete version,
Check its Original Source