Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids, writes CityLab contributor Mary Hui.

This semester, Chan is teaching an 18-week course to fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders at the Kwun Tong Government Primary School (Sau Ming Road), a public elementary school in the Kwun Tong district of Hong Kong. Chan had his students pore over colorful zoning maps of the neighborhood, then divided them into four groups and had each team pick a site to redevelop. After lots of discussions, planning, and drawing sessions, the students went on to build cardboard models of their proposals, which included refurbishing an old factory building into a space science lab and building an eco-hotel atop a former quarry.

CityLab spoke with Chan about design and planning education for children. Here's an expert from the article:

Why should schools start teaching design to young kids?
What does urban planning have to do with education? Whether you’re a kid or an adult, I think the biggest challenge is often figuring out how to sift through information, deciding what information to use, and learning to make compromises. You have to understand that the best argument isn’t the loudest one. It has to be rational. On the sustainability front, we also have to start teaching this from a young age. A lot of students think putting their plastic bottles in the recycling bin is what sustainability means. But there’s a broader way to think about it, [such as], how do you think about transportation to reduce car use? These are very broad and complex topics, and we have to simplify them for the students to get across the message that to make the future of cities more sustainable, you really have to think about a lot of different factors.

What do we lose by not teaching (and learning) design from an early age?
From a design perspective, I think you miss out on learning how to analyze a question. In math or science class, you learn to solve a problem formulaically. But you may not learn how to analyze the problem. Analysis is very important for students. In the working world, I sometimes come across very stubborn adults. It’s not that they’re not skillful enough, but that they can’t get to the core of a question and deconstruct it to find the different levels of reasoning. So I think design teaches kids how to creatively think out the reasoning.

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