EarthFest 2017: Planning and Youth Engagement

A warm, sunny, and windy day was the setting for EarthFest 2017 on April 28th at Temple University’s Ambler Campus.  EarthFest is an annual event promoting environmental awareness to elementary and middle school students from across the region.  This year, the Southeast Section (APA PA SE) partnered with Temple’s Student Planning Organization (TSPO) to host a combined booth focused on sustainability and planning.   Our volunteers engaged students in two planning activities – one related to transportation and the other land use – to give them a basic idea of what many planners do on a regular basis.  The booth also had informational materials, including an APA brochure explaining “What Planners Do.”  

The transportation-related activity had students placing stickers to indicate whether they walk, bike, drive, or take the bus to get to school, visit friends/family, visit park/playgrounds, and go shopping.  The informal survey had over 150 responses, which we tallied to develop a table of trips by mode (see chart below).  We compared the distribution to last year’s results and found the overall tally for each mode was within 3-5% of last year’s values, which provides some legitimacy to the exercise.  However, we also heard from kids that they would have liked options for trains, subways, and carpooling – an item we will address for next year.

The second activity focused on land use and development.  Using an enlarged aerial map of the Ambler Campus, students were shown where on the map they would be standing.  Our volunteers then asked what kind of land uses they would consider adding to the immediate area.  The most common uses kids identified were park space, sports fields, basketball courts, and a pool.  Other less common responses included a water park, grocery store, hospital, food shelters, homeless shelters, (free) ice cream places, and even a hotel.

Each year, Temple’s Earthfest gives planners an opportunity to engage local students in a light-hearted, yet meaningful dialogue about the important work we do every day.  Thanks to the efforts of Ashley Nuckles, Tim O’Leary, Kyle Hearing, Ted Mullen, and John Federico, APA PA SE was able to stay involved with this great event.

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