Junior Citizen Planner curriculum teaches community land use issues to youth in fun ways

There are a multitude of reasons for educators to use fun, hands-on MSU Extension Junior Citizen Planner curriculum to teach youth about land use issues within their communities.

Michigan State University Extension’sJunior Citizen Planner program strives to develop responsible and involved citizens by educating youth through fun, hands-on learning activities within their communities on land use issues. The 33 lessons in the Junior Citizen Planner curriculum make it easy for kids to visualize the impact of development. Lessons are divided into five subject areas:

  • Community and civics indoor activities
  • Geography indoor activities
  • Environment and land use indoor activities
  • Outdoor community service activities
  • Technology enhancement activities

Each lesson plan includes an overview, objectives, subject, skills to be gained, activity duration, background information, materials needed and step-by-step intructions with:

  • Fun and creative teaching strategies and learning meth­ods, including experiential and hands-on components
  • Information on the pertinent Michigan curriculum standards – content and skills that are included in the Common Core State Standards which Michigan adopted in 2010 and is transitioning toward
  • Unbiased background information presenting all sides of controversial land use issues in a fair and honest manner
  • A  design that builds knowledge and skills for inquiry, investigation, analysis, decision-making and action
  • Evaluation strategies directed toward a variety of learning styles that assess student learning
  • Adaptation ideas and technology extensions on activities to further student understanding and investigation
  • Potential to spark ideas for projects that can be displayed at fairs or community events
  • Additional data, facts, resources and reference material

The lessons are age-appropriate and really help youth appreciate the need to be thoughtful about land development issues. One activity, A Slice of Planet Earth, uses apple slices and fractions to create awareness of the very small amount of useable land we have proportionately to the whole planet. The debriefing discussion gives kids a chance to process and apply what they’ve learned to their local community.

The Michigan Map Road Trip activity is a great way for youth to really learn how to read a map and everything on it. It’s a fun activity because it is hands-on and like a game. Adults will likely learn some new things right along with the kids. Land Uses – There Are So Many is also often deemed a favorite. It teaches zoning in fun and meaningful ways that youth can understand.

Junior Citizen Planner is just one of many 4-H environmental and outdoor education programs that help young people develop a sense of stewardship toward our natural resources.

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