Land Science is a virtual internship in which students assume the role of interns at a fictitious urban planning firm, Regional Design Associates. The primary task of interns at Regional Design Associates is to propose a rezoning plan for the city of Lowell that takes into account the demands of various community groups. These groups champion diverse causes, including housing, jobs, pollution control, wildlife protection, waste disposal, and others.
Students are placed in project teams, and they use research studies, stakeholder assessments, and various professional tools to propose land-use changes. For example, they may turn a parking lot into a neighborhood park and playground or rezone commercial lots for mixed commercial and residential use to improve quality of life. The iPlan mapping tool shows them how the proposed changes will affect various indicators, such as migratory bird populations, number of housing units, or phosphorous levels.
In the simulation, students perform the kinds of tasks that urban planners do in their training: they receive materials that urban planners use, such as research reports and communications from concerned citizens, which provide information about revenue, water pollution, waste, housing, and other issues; they conduct a site visit and interview virtual stakeholders; they use a GIS model to create preference surveys and construct proposals for redevelopment; and they record their activities and reflect on them in a planning notebook. All activities are online, and students communicate with their teammates and their planning consultant using built-in chat and email.
During the last days of the internship, students present their final zoning decisions. Not all of the stakeholders’ concerns can be addressed simultaneously, so project teams must make decisions about which demands to meet. The students then write a formal proposal in which they justify the decisions made and attempt to convince the stakeholders (and their supervisor at Regional Design Associates) that the proposed plan is a good compromise.
Land Science is optimized for use with high school students. It takes approximately 10 hours to complete.
(Note: If you use any products, services, or data developed or provided by EGG/GAPS—including virtual internships and epistemic network analysis—in your research or in any publications or presentations, please read our guidelines for acknowledgment.)
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Bagley, E. (2010). The epistemography of an urban and regional planning practicum: Appropriation in the face of resistance. WCER Working Paper 2010-8. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison.