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Students invision Gary as a sustainable city called Solarton

Last year on December 10, 2015, students made a presentation on the Sustainable City Project, which they had worked on for several months. It had been infused in the curriculum of an 8th grade class at Williams Annex Middle School. The idea of the project was to design and build an ideal city and make it a sustainable one.

A sustainable city or community is defined as one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches that meet one of the goals at the expense of the others. A sustainable community requires a long-term perspective that is focused on both the present and future and beyond the next budget or election cycle.

With this in mind, students started in the beginning of the school year and learned about the founding fathers and the American Revolution. They also learned about the Constitution and the separation of governmental power into three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial). Students then learned of the compromises the founding fathers made in order to insure a strong long lasting way of life for the American people.

The sustainable city project started at this point. Students chose the City of Gary, Indiana as its geographic model for their ideal sustainable city. They highlighted good/bad things about their city and things needed to improve their city.

A curriculum of learning about why cities are important, problems with cities, and what make cities grow was implemented. Students read, discussed, and wrote about what is needed to make a sustainable city. Students learned that in future society a sustainable city has to include ways of using renewable sources (wind, solar) to provide better energy for the needs of its citizens.

Things such as compact forms of shelter as opposed to low-density, spread-out residential developments, mixed land use; homes, jobs and shopping in close proximity; jobs based primarily on education and skills; sanitation that uses natural means of treatment and does not discharge untreated sewage into bodies of water; basic services, transportation that is less dependent on private cars, reducing air pollution and crime were highlighted as necessary for good quality of life.

From these discussions the class drew its conclusion that to have a sustainable city, not only did you need economic capital, but you also need social capital (good will) in order to bring stability and prosperity.

Their conclusion coincides with experts on the issue like Beth Lachman, who wrote in one of her articles, “Another critical dimension to creating a sustainable community is fostering a sense of community. Such sustainability activities try to enhance individuals’ and organizations’ feelings of attachment, value and connection to the community. Many experts feel that only by caring about and feeling a part of their neighborhood, town, county, and/ or city will individuals truly work together over the long-term to develop a healthy community.” Linking Sustainable Community Activities to Pollution Prevention: A Sourcebook.

Using paper, tape, clay, glue, and crayons—students designed and built their own ideal city, which they called — SOLARTON, Indiana.

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, Robert McCrady and Carolyn Pirtle, the two teachers involved in the project, and their students made a presentation to the Gary Community School Board. The students were Raychell Burtton, Tevon Burks, Kamden Brown, Kteyan Crowder, Toney Delaney, Jasmine Elder, Lawrence Fentress, Jovaun Harris, Farajae Johnson, Donald Ware, and Armani Woods.

The Board was highly impressed at the students’ presentation. In attendance for the presentation were Councilwoman, Carolyn Rogers, 4th District; School Board members: Rosie Washington and Robert Campbell; LaLosa Burns represented Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Claudia Moore represented the superintendent, Dr. Pruitt; Attorney Inga Lewis Shannon represented Judge Deidre Monroe; and citizens, Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Anderson and Sherylin Freeland-McCrady.

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