Future City - Urban Planning - 6th - 8th grade

Future City is an international engineering competition sponsored by the DiscoverE organization.  Their original mission was making middle school kids aware of careers in engineering.  Our original mission (using the Future City curriculum and ultimately getting involved in the competition) was project-based, hands-on, authentic, relevant learning that teaches the Engineering Design Process. 

Teachers agree that it is terrific curriculum and a fabulous experience for middle school students.  Check out some of our participating SoCal schools on our website: Southern California Region Future City website.  I have lesson plans to share with you that I've developed over the years and Future City National has designed some lesson plans, as well.  You will find them on their website: futurecity.org


Sim city 5

With my (limited) background as a politician, I was fascinated by SimCity software before I was aware of its use in this competition. Sims were so like real people; building cities was very much like modern urban planning; balancing a budget was also realistic.  I was hooked!  When my first group of students learned more about urban planning in a month playing SimCity than I learned in 4 years of participating in running a city, I knew this was curriculum I had to share with others. 


Long-Term -- Cross Curricular

Long-term project:  I typically start with my 6th graders early-September and finish with an in-school competition in January.

Cross-curricular: Students must use knowledge of history, geography, writing, math (for that scale model), innovating, project-management, design thinking and a dozen other topics.  The more teachers you can get involved in this project, the more successful your students will be.  For example, getting the English teacher involved in helping students write their essay will produce better essays (and free up more of your maker-space time for building the model city). Likewise getting the Math teacher involved to teach scale.

If you are teaching Ancient Civilizations in the 6th Grade, please connect with the History teachers at The Rhoades School in Encinitas, CA. They seamlessly integrated the Future City curriculum with their Ancient Civilizations curriculum. 



Project-based: The ultimate goal is innovating solutions to the topic of the year in your city (anywhere in the Universe) 100 years in the future but before you can do that, you have to study urban planning, how governments work, etc. etc.  Along the way there are several deliverables...so there are mini-projects in this project. 


1. Presentation Slides on Goal Setting and Strategies used in the SimCity game  (October)

2. City Description - 1500 word essay (November)

3. Project Management Plan (all along the project timeline)

4. Scale model of a city 100 years in the future (50" x 25") (start building in December) with a moving part.

5. Oral Presentation of the model (January)


Project Management

One of the most important skills we can teach our middle-schoolers is the ability to manage a long-term project.  This curriculum includes that, too.

(This picture is about the planning stage of our cities.)



Students must build a to-scale model city that incorporates their innovations.  The model is out of recycled materials (no trips to the craft store, please!) with a maximum cost of $100.  This is a perfect  opportunity to teach students about different types of adhesives, how to use a hot glue gun safely, use hand tools safely, spray paint safely, and, well, build safely.  The model must have a moving part so this is also a good time to teach students how to connect a AA battery pack to a small motor.

Want to see my videos on how to make that moving part from spare parts you have lying around? 

MOVING PARTHere's your link!


The Competition

Future City is an international competition. If you are interested in competing, you need to contact your Regional Coordinator.  Check futurecity.org and click on "find my region".  Here are some standard dates:

Register your school - August/September

Regional Competition - 3rd or 4th Saturday in January (in Southern California)

National Competition - February (in Washington DC)



The Future City curriculum is all about collaboration. Students work in teams of 3 or more on each of the deliverables.

You and I know that teaching collaboration is key to student success.  This is a terrific project for this crucial skill.