Lindblom High School freshmen taking Human Geography were tasked with the challenge of creating a project that would reimagine a public space, or solve a current problem that would directly benefit their community. Social sciences teachers Ian Brannigan and Teddy Kent said they assigned their freshmen classes to create a project that would affect change.

One student advocated for an Orange Line extension in Ashburn because he said many residents in his community have to take a half an hour bus ride in traffic to access the Orange line. He said he wanted a shorter commute for working families. Another said that more could be done to serve the city’s homeless population so designed a homeless shelter downtown that could hold families. One student argued that she and other young people in her neighborhood deserved a community center that didn’t require transportation to get to. There was another who said a new App would help improve the city’s response time for addressing broken street lights.

The teachers helped host their first Urban Planning Fair and invited members of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, said Brannigan.

“The day they brought in all the projects, I was floored by the quality and depth of thought,” he said. “It’s really cool and exciting to have seen their ideas develop and become flushed out in a way that’s authentic for their own experiences. I think it’s just inspiring.”

Kent said these projects were driven by student interest and that he hopes there was a lesson in this assignment.

“I think the sort of work we do in the classroom has meaning and has a takeaway beyond it,” Kent said. “We help put language to the world that they’re already deeply familiar with, and the neighborhood they know really well. We allow them to hopefully make deeper connections and think more deeply about the world around them.”

Meet The Students:

Who: Roxana Leal, freshman, 15

Project: “Building for Help”

What: Build a homeless shelter

Where: In the Loop

Why: “I thought what does the city need. I was like there are a lot of people who are homeless.”

Who: Ashley Crutcher, freshman, 15

Project: “Education in the Park District “

What: Build a partnership with Park District

Where: Englewood

Why: “I grew up in the Englewood community and the education rate is very low so I wanted to help change that.  A lot of kids go to the Park District to wait on their parents for maybe 2-3 hours. While they’re at the park, they can also get help with school work.”

Who: Arturo Fonseca, freshman, 15

Project: “Building a New Chicago”

What: Build a train station

Where: The Ashburn community

Why: “I looked at Ashburn and tried to find what was the best place and what was needed to be done. The purpose of a train station is to provide reliable transportation and fix the neighborhood.”

Who: Trinity Nelson, freshman, 15,

Project: “Bringing in More to the Community”

What: Community center

Where: Chatham

Why: “I live in the Chatham community, and there’s a big field with nothing there. I wanted to put a place there, like a community center, a place where kids can go and not be on the streets.”

Who: Ann Marie Lawrence, freshman, 14

Project: “Broken Street Lights, A Better Chicago”

What: Build an App

Where: For all Chicago residents

Why: “I looked at the problems in my community and some of the problems I saw were like broken streetlights. My solution was to build an App, ‘A better Chicago,’ and it’s like you select your problem, enter your address, make an appointment so people can come fix your problem.”

Editor’s note: For your information, Chicago currently offers this service online. It’s available at