Junior Citizen Planner program provides youth lessons in community, environment and civics

MSU Extension Junior Citizen Planner program helps youth understand the connection between good citizenship, the environment and their community.

Seeking ways to help youth understand the connection between good citizenship, the environment and their community? The Junior Citizen Planner program is a series of innovative curricula that educates youth in third to eighth grade on land use issues through fun, hands-on learning activities within their communities. The program was created through a partnership between two Michigan State University Extension programs – Citizen Planner and 4-H Youth Development.

The Junior Citizen Planner curriculum contains 33 lesson plans that can be used in the classroom or with youth in a non-formal education setting such as a 4-H club or other youth program, after-school program, or day and summer camps. The primary subject areas covered in the program are geography; social studies, civics and community; and environmental science and land use planning. Lessons can be done in any order and used independently or as a series. Activities and lesson plans are matched and listed with the pertinent Michigan curriculum standards – content and skills included in the Common Core State Standards which Michigan adopted in 2010 and is transitioning toward.

The Junior Citizen Planner curriculum also includes a technology enhancement that offers a geocaching activity using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology. GPS is the basis for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which provides mapping data used by communities in planning, zoning and development. GPS and GIS are cutting edge tools and are growing areas of employment. The GPS activity includes role play handouts based on how different careers may use GPS.

The Junior Citizen Planner program really helps students gain an interest in their community and understand the connection between land use decisions and the environment. Youth also gain a better understanding of why it is important to participate in the local and state government process, and how policy decisions affect their everyday lives. Youth learn about why their community looks like it does and may even become interested in helping design it for the future.

Junior Citizen Planner is just one of many 4-H environmental and outdoor education programs that help young people learn about the interconnection of people and nature.

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