In the spring semester of 2010, CYE doctoral student, Corrie Williams developed and taught an undergraduate Environmental Design (ENVD) service-learning course, Integrating Community Preferences in Environmental Design. It aimed to support ENVD students in learning how to effectively integrate community needs and preferences into planning and design. Another purpose was to evaluate how the needs of children and youth in a local community were being met and to develop suggestions for action.
Twelve ENVD students, mostly juniors and seniors, first reviewed scholarly articles and book chapters on the process, skills, and theory behind community integration in environmental design. They were asked to critique their readings and to articulate what makes good community design. They then engaged about 15-20 fourth- and fifth-grade youth in Boulder’s Family Learning Center (FLC) after-school program. The FLC primarily serves local low-income and minority families, particularly youth from adjacent San Juan del Centro. The work introduced the ENVD students to common challenges in community planning and design and showed them how choices by designers, planners, and policy-makers can significantly impact the everyday lives of people, especially children.
Throughout the three weeks of engaging with the FLC youth, the ENVD students faced their own challenges in deciding how to garner design-relevant information from the youth. The final project required them to effectively communicate what they understood to be the FLC youth preferences for, and experience of, their community. They also wrote three reflection papers about their work with the FLC youth. Many students had never worked with lower socio-economic or minority communities and expressed appreciation for just how difficult effective planning and design can be when trying to integrate community participation.
Their final projects included a collage of images, maps, evaluations and reflections. A summary of findings will be submitted to the City of Boulder for use in developing future planning and policy oriented to youth and underserved communities within the City.