Land Science

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.)

Further Reading

Nash, P., Bagley, E.A., & Shaffer, D.W. (2012). Playing for public interest: Epistemic games as civic engagement activities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Vancouver, BC.

Nash, P. & Shaffer, D.W. (2012). Epistemic youth development: Educational games as youth development activities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Vancouver, BC.

Bagley, E. & Shaffer, D.W. (2011). Promoting civic thinking through epistemic game play. In R. Ferdig (Ed.), Discoveries in gaming and computer-mediated simulations: New interdisciplinary applications, (pp. 111-127). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

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.

Bagley, E. & Shaffer, D.W. (2009). When people get in the way: Promoting civic thinking through epistemic game play. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations 1(1): 36-52.

Beckett, K. & Shaffer, D.W. (2005). Augmented by reality: The pedagogical praxis of urban planning as a pathway to ecological thinking. Journal of Educational Computing Research 33(1): 31-52.

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This work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (DRL-0918409, DRL-0946372, DRL-1247262, DRL-1418288, DRL-1661036, DRL-1713110, DUE-0919347, DUE-1225885, EEC-1232656, EEC-1340402, REC-0347000), the MacArthur Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The opinions, findings, and conclusions do not reflect the views of the funding agencies, cooperating institutions, or other individuals.