SiteSeeing

The SiteSeeing urban design curriculum gives schoolchildren tools to “see” their community and teaches youth how to share responsibility for their environment and participate in public decision making processes throughout their lives. We offer SiteSeeing to schools and youth groups to empower our future stewards of the next generation of parks.

About SiteSeeing

SiteSeeing is an interdisciplinary curriculum designed for students in grades 4 – 8. The curriculum teaches students how to see and think critically about the physical features that make up their community – from streets and sidewalks to homes and gardens. SiteSeeing aims to educate generations of citizens, through a series of structured, hands-on exercises, to be skilled at creating communities that reflect the commonly held desire for connection rather than separation and segregation. By teaching young people today about the impact of sensitive planning and design they can become enlightened citizens with the skills, ability and drive to create healthy, sustainable communities.

Program History

The curriculum, which has been taught in MN, ND, and CA, serves diverse student populations, and has been adapted in a variety of ways to coordinate with particular school programs and projects. An International Baccalaureate/Primary Years Programme, for example, designed a Unit of Inquiry based upon the SiteSeeing program. The unit, entitled, “Yours, Mine, Ours,” was designed to help students investigate the concept of urban planning for a community with consideration to current and future residents and their needs.

In another case the curriculum was modified to coordinate with one school’s local Neighborhood Revitalization Program planning process, examining a real-world development. The background work and student proposals for a new neighborhood park were presented to the local neighborhood organization, and the neighborhood organizer was so impressed with the innovation of the students’ ideas that he requested a list of items from the students’ park designs to include in the neighborhood’s master plan requirements.

Interest in the SiteSeeing Program has been significant, particularly within the public sector. Mayors from both Minneapolis and St. Paul have attended final student presentations, as have County Commissioners and community organizers, all in an effort to show support for the students and glean insight into how youth would like to see their communities develop.

Program Curriculum

The SiteSeeing curriculum is a map for an adventure. It offers young people the experience of looking at their neighborhoods with fresh eyes, to really see their physical environment for the first time. It is an in-depth process of envisioning what their neighborhoods could be, with the intent to improve the quality of life for both current and future residents. Through the SiteSeeing curriculum, students and community members develop the skills and interest to plan for and participate in the future of their neighborhoods, wherever they live.

The SiteSeeing curriculum is structured around three basic investigative themes:

  • What’s there (gathering)
  • What’s missing (analyzing)
  • What could be (envisioning)
These themes are broken down into investigatory topics of scale and location:

  •  The neighborhood
  • Neighborhood as part of a larger city, suburb or town
  • Comparative neighborhood types
The educational goals of the SiteSeeing Program include:

  • Introduce participants to the vocabulary and concepts of community design to enable them to understand and articulate their ideas
  • Educate students about how their lifestyle decisions can affect planning and design concepts and processes
  • Empower students to take responsibility for their environment and participate in public decision making processes throughout their lives
  • Prepare students for future professions by teaching them the skills to think critically and connect ideas across disciplines
  • Expand students’ research skills through gathering of historical facts and information about the built and natural environment using primary sources
  • Develop students’ 2-D & 3-D visual and verbal communication skills
  • Strengthen links between the students, their neighborhood school or community center and the surrounding neighborhood