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Planning My City

Planning My City

Planning My City was inspired by the 2014 Centenary celebrations RTPI Future Planners initiative that sought planning ambassadors to go into our schools to raise awareness of and foster interest in planning with school students aged 11 – 18. 

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In Northern Ireland we felt we could target children at primary school level, to introduce the concept of planning though interaction and play.  So, armed with an idea and some determination RTPI NI partnered with Belfast Healthy Cities, sought backup and support from the staff and students at our planning schools at QUB and UUJ, secured the space in the Ulster Museum during the busy half term break, brought Brickz 4 Kidz along for the ride, and most importantly pursued and secured sponsorship from DoE, Eplani and Belfast City Council.

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And so on Tuesday 28 October at 10 am the Ulster Museum opened its doors and all those involved in the project stood waiting patiently in the Discover Art Zone as the sense of fear and panic rose amongst us as literally hundreds of children descended upon us and the city planning began!

Such was the success that we quickly had to increase the number of city planning workshops we had planned to facilitate and also increase the number of children able to participate.  It was a wonderful noisy chaos, all of us learning. 

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The city model had been beautifully crafted by the architecture students of Ulster University and it sparked the imaginations.  The children talked about all sorts of planning and non planning related activities during the workshops, thinking for themselves about the links between different land and building uses, the need for chocolate factories and boat lanes, places to work, walk the dog and land the plane, who makes the planning decisions and what sort of a building would they live in.  It was all covered. 

While the city planning workshop was running there were plenty of other activities going on in the room.  Brickz 4 Kidz lead discussions on energy while the kids built a working lego windmill, the photo wall allowed all age groups to pick from a selection of images and write what they thought was good or bad about the pictures, an interactive IT programme flew through Belfast with x-box controls showing shadows and light movements.  There was also a craft table with a Halloween theme making haunted houses out of paper bags and a free play space with blocks and bricks.   

Lego Ruby

The Halloween half term break at the Ulster Museum coincides with the Royal Ulster Academy annual exhibition and the expectation was for a high footfall throughout the week.  However during the 4 days that Planning My City was running the Museum saw significantly increased numbers coming through the doors with over 9000 people visiting during the 4 day period.  Around 500 children will have taken part in Planning My City workshops and substantially more will have taken part in the activities around the room.  We frequently had to close the doors!

A massive thank you to the enthusiastic students who gave up their free time to come and facilitate workshops and to the sponsors who supported the event.  In terms of educational outreach it was a huge success, hopefully we have inspired the children to look around and think about why their surroundings have developed as they have, and you never know, we may have some future planners in the making.  I also know I won't be switching to become a primary school teacher any time soon!  For more information contact