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Edgewater Teens Plan Sustainable Development, Get Life Lessons

ASM_Pic2Very rarely do youth get a chance to have a voice in urban planning or neighborhood beautification efforts. They aren’t often invited to discussions regarding how our communities should look and feel for those living in the community. This past summer, 25 teens from the Edgewater neighborhood (and over 10 different countries around the world), were lucky enough to participate in an After School Matters program in which they learned about architecture, urban planning and building environmentally friendly systems to keep neighborhoods full of green space and accessible to the public. They then developed beautification and sustainability projects specific to the Edgewater neighborhood and gave a new fresh perspective on how to best utilize some of our unused open areas.

While many adults in the Edgewater area have been to countless meetings discussing the redevelopment along the Broadway corridor or the new Whole Foods set to arrive in the spring of 2015, the teens involved in this program were busy designing green houses, open spaces with water features to retain storm water, and play areas in combination with food courts and an eco-marketplace. They took concepts that they learned around the globe and adapted them to some of the challenges we face here in Chicago.

Local architect Carmen Vidal-Hallett and colleague Gabrielle Baldassari were the facilitators of the program and wanted to give students the opportunity to see how the field of architecture differs around the world and use that knowledge to apply to their own projects. The students learned from journalists covering sustainability issues, they discussed traffic issues in India, water scarcity in Africa and Asia, and the melting of glaciers in Peru and Mongolia.

ASM_Edgewater

One of the major concerns was that of the massive parking lot at Glenlake and Broadway. The concrete lot is extremely large with minimal green space. It is just a block away from the CTA Thorndale stop and as such, even half the lot could be used differently to make the area a little friendlier for pedestrians.

Part of the intention with all After School Matters programs is to expose youth to different professional fields and learn about the ways in which those in the work force have mapped out their education and work history. This group took field trips to Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago Center for Green Technology and the Stickney Water Treatment Plant (the largest in the world). “These trips gave the teens a taste of the City’s environmental direction and how they could become green architects, sustainable urban planners and environmental scientists,” Vidal-Hallett told us.

After School Matters programs such as these give youth real-life work experience and provide them with the tools and resources to be a part of solving some of the city’s challenges. Edgewater is an active community with a hyper-local focus, but we could do better to include other voices. With so many innovative ideas about how our neighborhood could be designed, perhaps we should invite schools and teens to participate in our discussions.


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