Smart Growth: Reshaping Communities

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 11, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Urban Planning

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

One or two fifty-minute class periods


Smart growth is community development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment. In this activity students will learn about different aspects of smart growth as they explore a model community. They will engage in creative problem solving and create presentations on this topic.

National Standards

Standard 6. Level IV. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment 5. Knows ways in which humans can alter the equilibrium of ecosystems, causing potentially irreversible effects (e.g., human population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, and atmospheric changes)
Standard 8. Level IV. Understands the characteristics of ecosystems on Earth's surface 4. Knows the effects of both physical and human changes in ecosystems (e.g., the disruption of energy flows and chemical cycles and the reduction of species diversity, how acid rain resulting from air pollution affects water bodies and forests and how depletion of the atmosphere's ozone layer through the use of chemicals may affect the health of humans)
Standard 1. Level IV. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Standard 7. Level IV. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps) Standard 4. Level IV. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level IV. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 3. Uses a variety of strategies to enhance listening comprehension (e.g., focuses attention on message, monitors message for clarity and understanding, asks relevant questions, provides verbal and nonverbal feedback, notes cues such as change of pace or particular words that indicate a new point is about to be made; uses abbreviation system to record information quickly; selects and organizes essential information) 4. Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade) 5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources) 8. Responds to questions and feedback about own presentations (e.g., clarifies and defends ideas, expands on a topic, uses logical arguments, modifies organization, evaluates effectiveness, sets goals for future presentations)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Thinking & Reasoning
Standard 5. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.


Students will do the following:
  • conduct Internet research
  • evaluate and analyze information from diverse sources
  • summarize and synthesize information from diverse sources
  • create a presentation
  • evaluate group work


  • "My Smart Growth Development Dream" handout


  • computer with Internet access


Building Background Models of Change

The purpose of this activity is to introduce the concept of smart growth development. 1. Share the following definition of smart growth with your students: "Smart growth is about being good stewards of our communities and of our rural lands, parks, and forests. It is about ensuring that the best of the past is preserved, while creating new communities that are attractive, vital, and enduring." -Michael Leavitt, EPA Administrator Source: As a class, explore the story of the Breckenridge, Colorado community that was designated as the Environmental Protection Agency's top smart growth neighborhood. Use the following websites as resources: 2. Create a class list highlighting the benefits of smart growth. Post the list for students to use as a learning resource. 3. Have a discussion about the benefits of smart growth: how it affects our earth, how it affects our resources, etc. Emphasize the benefits smart growth has on the sustainability of natural resources, and the impact it makes on our earth. Make sure the students realize that smart growth is a way in which we can make positive choices for our future.

Steps for Learning Developer's Dreams

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to use the steps of the design process to create a mock smart growth community. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the "My Smart Growth Development Dream" handout. 2. Provide time for each small group to present its work to the class. 3. Discuss the different elements of each group presentation, and the effectiveness of the arguments presented for the smart growth community.



Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. -How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor -Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor -Rate the effectiveness of your solution. Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated the problem you wanted to solve. Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor -Rate your creativity. Excellent        Good         Adequate         Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Share Your Knowledge
Create a brochure that is designed to teach the public about smart growth communities.

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