On an unseasonably cold and blustery April day, aspiring planners from the Temple Student Planning Organization (TSPO) – in partnership with APA Pennsylvania’s Southeast Section (APA PA SE) – hosted a booth at Temple University’s EarthFest. The purpose of this annual event is to teach students about sustainability concepts and promote environmental awareness. This year, the event honored Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, founder of the Center for Sustainable Communities and professor in the Department of Planning and Community Development at Temple University.
TSPO volunteers led elementary and middle school students in an exercise designed to foster a discussion about planning and encourage them to think about how land can be sustainably developed. Using an enlarged aerial map of the field in which they were standing, students were asked to guess what the map depicted. With impressive regularity, students correctly identified the location of the aerial. Next, volunteers led a discussion of various types of development, culminating in students suggesting ideas for developing the field by placing sticky notes on the map. Some of the most compelling responses were “homes but cheap” and “a nature preserve,” though “swimming pool” seems to be the perennial favorite. The APA brochure What Planners Do was also available at the booth and used to spark discussions with interested chaperones.
Each year, Temple University’s EarthFest provides an opportunity to engage with students and their families about the work that planners do to improve communities. The participation of TSPO and APA PA SE in this event is a small but meaningful way in which the planning community can promote a greater understanding of the important role planning has in our society.