Students learn about urban planning by playing SimCity. SimCity5 (or SimCity 2013) is the version we use in class. (There is a future cities game, as well, that includes cool futuristic tools like a trash atomizer and a wave generator. It's worth the extra $10 for this future pack if you are buying it for yourself.)
I've been playing video games since Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came out in the 1970's. SimCity is a very intellectual game. It requires critical thinking and attention to detail. I tell parents that playing SimCity is like keeping 50 plates spinning at the same time. If you don't believe me yet, play the game for awhile. You'll see what I mean.
Read this article about Urban Planners using SimCity to design their cities.
Students have different visions of their Future City and of how to make their planning map. Some students, like this team, used a key. Each "P" is a park.
Other students use color for their city planning map. The green is a walking path that spans the length of their city, but off of the heavily travelled major thoroughfare.
This team used a huge piece of paper - the size of their actual model and color coding for the different types of buildings. The pink bits are city services such as hospitals, fire departments and police.