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A lush urban park in a bustling city represents the concept of green cities, with vibrant vegetation flourishing among walkways and ponds. The integration of green spaces within urban development is showcased, illustrating sustainable design and natural ecosystem preservation amidst metropolitan growth.

Do your students know about sustainable cities?

Climatopias: What Will Sustainable Cities of the Future Look Like?

April 14, 2024

Climatopias: What Will Sustainable Cities of the Future Look Like?

Use this climate-focused current events lesson to teach students about the sustainable cities of the future and provide an opportunity to design their own.

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Looking at the Green Cities of the Future

Have you heard of sustainable cities or “climatopias”?

This green edition of Today's News, Tomorrow's Lesson invites students to embark on a journey through urban planning's innovative responses to climate change. It opens up a space for students to consider the impact of our built environments on the planet and discover groundbreaking concepts like sponge cities. After discussing the following videos as a class, you'll find a creative digital storytelling project, encouraging students to weave their critical thoughts into visions of greener futures. Perfect for getting students excited about climate education, these activities provide a blend of environmental education and artistic expression for a classroom experience that resonates with the urgency of our times.

  • Note: The two videos below amount to a combined time of approximately 10 minutes.
Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  1. Urban Evolution: Reflecting on the shift from cities designed for human connection to those built for cars, how has this evolution impacted social equality, health and environmental sustainability?
  2. Legislative Influence: Consider the role of policies, like the Federal Highway Act of 1956, in shaping American cities. How do these policies reflect the priorities of their times, and what lessons can we learn for future urban planning?
  3. Equity and Infrastructure: Discuss the impacts of highway construction through communities of color and working-class neighborhoods. How can future city planning address and rectify these historical inequalities?
  4. Sustainable Solutions: Explore the principles of making sidewalks useful, safe, comfortable and interesting as part of city planning. How do these principles contribute to creating more sustainable and livable cities?
  5. Climate Action and Urban Planning: Given the transportation sector's significant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, what strategies can cities adopt to reduce their carbon footprint while enhancing livability and connectivity?
Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  1. Sponge City Concept: How do sponge cities contribute to combating climate change, and what specific features allow them to manage water more effectively than traditional urban environments?
  2. Biodiversity in Urban Areas: Discuss the importance of biodiversity in cities. How can urban designs, like sponge cities, support biodiversity, and why is it critical for environmental health and climate change mitigation?
  3. Challenges and Limitations: Reflect on the limitations and challenges faced by sponge cities, as illustrated by the flooding in Zhengzhou in 2021. What does this tell us about the complexity of addressing climate change impacts through urban design?
  4. Scalability and Adaptation: Considering the diverse climate, hydrology and socioeconomic conditions of cities, how can the sponge city model be adapted or scaled to work in different urban settings, including those in the U.S.?
  5. Role of Community and Policy: What role do local communities and policies play in implementing sustainable urban designs like sponge cities? How can students and local residents contribute to making their cities more sustainable and resilient to climate change?

Media Literacy: Public Opinion on Green Solutions

How does the way the media presents sponge cities and climate change influence public opinion and policymaking? Discuss the potential for both positive and negative impacts based on the framing of these urban design solutions and the challenges they present.

Climate Change and Urban Planning Digital Storytelling Project

Students will create a digital storytelling project using creative narratives, combining research on the effects of climate change on urban areas, to make a future scenario of their city transformed into a sustainable, climate-resilient community. This activity encourages students to envision practical solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation, enhancing their research, storytelling and digital literacy skills.

Andy Kratochvil
Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, video games, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community.He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from... See More
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