Young adults dive into city planning at first-ever USGBC Summer Camp

Published on: 
13 Aug 2020
Kristen Keim

The Center for Green Schools ran the first USGBC Summer Camp at the end of July with 49 young adults from around the world, including from the U.S., Egypt, Mexico, and Malaysia. Throughout the week, camp participants explored how sustainable city design is a vital tool in stopping climate change. After campers studied sustainable communities and built their vision of a sustainable city, they took to the streets of their own neighborhoods to investigate real-life examples of community planning. Campers were challenged to identify areas that lack sustainable practices in their community and develop an action plan to advocate for sustainable solutions.

While much of this work was independent, the campers connected daily about their shared work. The young adults worked together to make enhancements to their models and action plans, practicing the collaboration skills that are often needed in these real-life projects.

Student models

Each model design reflected the campers’ focus during the week; some campers concentrated on the distribution of clean energy while others focused their efforts on sustainable community elements, such as public transportation and waste management. While each community model differed in layout, the intent of the activity was clear in their final designs: campers learned elements of sustainable community design by planning and creating their own sustainable community.


Models by N. Muzzatti model, H. Abdelmaksoud and J.D. Sifrontes

Applying what they learned by building their models, campers tested what they knew about their own neighborhoods through an investigation. The campers identified the policies and programs that currently exist in their community and observed how these policies are implemented in local spaces. Afterward, they identified a concern with their city’s infrastructure or programming and created a goal to solve the issue.

The issues the camp group identified represented the array of sustainability issues found around the world and connected the campers in a way that only global climate change can. While two students from Seattle, USA and Giza, Egypt both wanted to work to clean up a local water source, other campers created plans to install solar panels on public buildings or recycling receptacles in local spaces.

Video by E. Jiralerspong


Campers’ parents were excited about all that their students took away from camp:

  • “For such a short time, they really learned much and cultivated a true consciousness about the importance of well-planned and sustainable cities.”
  • “I definitely think the students that did all the reading and assignments you gave walked away with a valuable set of skills and information they can bring to their further studies.”
  • “[He] had a fun time and learned new things about helping the environment. Seeing him working on his ideas and model was great for me and his dad to see.”

The Summer Camp intended to provide young adults a glimpse into sustainable city design and planning, while also providing a fun time during a summer stuck at home. Along the way, we also learned a valuable lesson about these young adults: they do not recoil when presented with real, global issues. They listen, organize, and act to create solutions that benefit their communities and planet.