The North Bend Eagle


Students study city planning to solve problems

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 1/16/13

North Bend Elementary students heard Jeff Ray, a planning department manager at JEO Consulting Group, talk about city planning in their study of mega-cities as part of the Future Problem Solvers program. Ray came to NBE on Wednesday during the student’s reading periods.

This is third year NBE has had a FPS group. It has expanded to include 30 students, of which 10 sixth graders make up the competitive team: Zach Borer, Harley Cave, Madeline Christensen, Zander Gibney, Kyle Jedlicka, Louis Johnson, Keegan McConnell, Hannah Mullally, Trevor Nelson, and Elsa Rasmussen. Last year two NBE teams qualified for state competition with one team placing third.

Becky Streff and Melissa Cody are the sponsors of the group. The students will compete locally at the end of February in hopes of qualifying for the FPS State Bowl in April.

The students have already studied the culture of celebrity and Robatic Age, before beginning mega-cities, their first competitive topic.

Ray talked to the students about how he became interested in planning, how he prepared himself to become a planner and what his job entails. He shared with the students books that his company had prepared for cities to use in planning.

Ray began his presentation by asking students how many were planners. When only a few raised their hands, he explained that planning was “future oriented activity which involves process of considering likely outcomes before choosing a course of action from various alternatives.” The students all realized they were planners.

On Thursday the students took a field trip to Omaha to meet with experts on cities. They met with Cecil Steward, CEO and founder of the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities. He shared with the students stories of his travels and problems faced by mega-cities.

Steward encouraged the students to look at reducing consumption, saying that communities of all sizes have to focus on long-term sustainability.

In the afternoon the students met with University of Nebraska at Omaha professors Dr. Robert Blair and Jerry Deichart. Blair spoke to the students about urbanization (the observable process as a city grows) and urbanism (people’s reaction that growth).

Deichart told the students about the work of a demographer, studying population trends of cities and population density. The students were surprised to hear that while North Bend has a density of about 1,500 people per square mile, Mumbai, India, has 54,000 people per square mile.

“After teaching and learning this process for a number of years, I am continually in awe of kids’ complex thinking, creative ideas, and ability to think outside the box,” Cody said.

Cody has a quote by Roger Lewin she likes to reference: “Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” She feels that FPS challenges students.

“It’s really exciting to be able to give young people the tools and processes to solve problems,” Cody said.

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