Students at Muller Road Middle School played the part of city planners on Friday, learning first-hand what it takes to build happy, healthy neighborhoods.
The middle schoolers engaged in a “Box City” exercise with staff of Richland County’s Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP) as part of NIP’s week-long celebration of National Community Planning Month. NIP serves a vital role in community planning by coordinating between neighborhood organizations, businesses, schools and local government to help establish thriving neighborhoods, business corridors and rural landscapes that coexist across Richland County.
During Friday’s Box City activity, students used large wooden blocks to build their own communities on large maps depicting rural, suburban and urban areas of Richland County. Planning Director Tracy Hegler, Neighborhood Planners Ashley Powell and Latoisha Green, and Neighborhood Redevelopment Administrative Specialist Cheryl Johnson asked students to consider the placement of gas stations, shopping centers, apartment complexes, detention centers, restaurants, utility stations and more. Students learned about the important balance between urban and rural and how the proximity of amenities and infrastructure affects quality of life.
“Box City encourages an awareness of and critical thought process about the environments these students find themselves in daily,” Powell said. “Beyond that, just as infrastructure is perhaps the most critical component of a city, education is the infrastructure that sets the foundation on which these young minds will build to create their futures.”
Box City was one of several events NIP held this week: a public presentation of the history of NIP and its local accomplishments over the past 11 years was held Oct. 16, the community was invited to an NIP Expo to learn more about the organization’s master plans and grant opportunities, and a “Nature in Your Neighborhood” event was held Oct. 29 to present residents with information about the benefits of incorporating natural and environmentally responsible practices into everyday life.
“This week was about introducing a more mature, more progressive Neighborhood Improvement Program to the citizens of Richland County,” Powell said. “We have learned and accomplished so much from the first decade of this program and are now ready to take it to the next level. We’ve updated our mission, vision and logo but we’ve also refined focus and are excited about the things to come.”
To learn more about Richland County’s Neighborhood Improvement Program, which is a part of the Richland County Planning and Development Department, visit www.rcgov.us.