Sustainable Urban Design: Educator’s Toolkit for Project-Based Learning, page 4 of 20

A photo of a teacher and student planting a tree
© Aaron Coury/TNC

Introduction: Why Should Educators Get Involved?

From small to large-scale projects, students can be part of an important and immensely educational process. Green infrastructure projects can provide the means to fully engage students in the science and engineering practices identified by the Next Generation Science Standards. From start to finish, students must analyze challenges and design and evaluate solutions to those challenges. Additionally, through engagement with these projects, students may gain exposure to the civic processes related to permitting, policy-making, and calculating economic constraints, while having firsthand opportunities to work with city, county, and/or state officials. By working with the community and other stakeholders, students gain experience soliciting community feedback on the projects that are most important to community members. The community members targeted might be the students themselves or neighbors, business owners, city officials, and/or school administrators. Secondly, these projects provide the opportunity for students to work with community partners and other experts in the design and implementation of the projects. These partnerships might pave the way for future work and even mentoring on behalf of the community organizations.

Service learning is an essential part of a 21st century education and, by participating in community improvement through these projects, students become empowered through new knowledge and skills. Green infrastructure projects also provide an excellent route to place-based learning in an urban environment. Students can take pride in the positive outcomes of the projects while learning that they have a vital role in shaping their communities and promoting sustainability. Projects that begin at school have the potential to inspire work in the larger community and forge broader partnerships across the city.

Lastly, educators can use these projects to create outdoor learning spaces that last beyond initial project implementation. Green spaces can be used to measure and track data over time and to contribute data to citizen science platforms like those found on Habitat Network. More detailed information on all of these topics can found throughout this toolkit.

For Further Learning