STEM up your school holidays with fun urban planning activities

Get out into nature these school holidays and tackle a STEM challenge (or 20) – even if it's your garden. Image: Shutterstock

Bored yet? There are heaps of fun STEM activities you can do these school holidays that’ll prep you for Term 4

– by Julie Rudner

If you’re hanging around your neighbourhood a lot more these school holidays, there are still loads of things you can get up to!

The following urban planning activities can be smashed out in the one day – or tackled in between Netflix marathons and TikTok dance-offs. You totally don’t need a computer either!

Think of it like a STEM-style scavenger hunt where you have to hunt things down, take photos and record your findings. Upload your images here.

Inside activities

1. Imagine and research what your neighbourhood would have been like prior to arrival of non-Aboriginal people:

a. Draw a map and pictures of what you think it might have been like;
b. Who lived where you are?
c. Would you have been in a good location e.g. access to water, material, safety etc…
d. What materials would your homes be built from?
e. What would you wear?
f. How would you have dealt with sanitation?
g. What sort of energy would you have used?
h. What would you eat? How would you get access to food?
i. How would you have travelled?
j. What would have been your governance structure?
k. How would any of this change based on season?

2. Using similar questions, try research for other eras e.g. 1850s, 1920s, 1940s…Additional things to think about:

a. When did steam engines emerge? How did they change how me made and transported
b. When did electricity start? Did everyone have it? What did people use before hand?
c. When did plastic emerge? How did this change the things we do?
d. Where were places of worship, hospitals, schools located? Why?
e. How did this change how people worked?

3. Understanding population growth and density (based on the previous wonderings)

a. Draw a map that includes landforms, water, vegetation and a small population of people e.g 100 individuals
b. Using pencils/pens/textas, and/or coloured paper or other craft things do the following to your map – identify how and where you will accommodation 10,000 people – what services will you need? Where should they be located? Do the same for 50,000 people, then 500,000 and 4,000,000 – do you need to expand your map?  Do you need to draw or build on your earlier work? Do you need to build upward?

4. Find some old photos of your neighbourhood, or look up old newspapers.

If you’re in Melbourne you might find this link really interesting, as it compares a 1945 Melbourne to now. You might find historical maps and plans from Public Record Office that
have been digitally aligned (rectified) to contemporary maps, or try you hand at doing it yourself.

The Public Records Office and State Library of Victoria are awesome resources.

Outside stuff

1. Go out into your own neighbourhood and observe the following – even turn into a photo essay:

a. Housing – location, type, design, height, bulk, colours, materials, density, yard…
b. Transport – pathways, roads: width/number of lanes, quality, connectivity, cross overs…
c. Infrastructure – drainage, water services, sanitation, electricity, etc
d. Community – centres, services
e. Commercial/Industrial – businesses, services
f. Amenity – shade, seating, views/vistas, public transport shelters…
g. Public spaces – Parks, green spaces and other recreational, restorative areas

2. Think about use of space! 

a. Who uses these spaces? Individuals vs groups? How do they move through the area?
b. Do different cohorts use the space differently and are needs met? e.g. children, teens,
parents with prams, families, older people, ethnicity/culture, people with different abilities
c. What about animals (domestic or wild)? How do they use spaces?
d. Is use different at various times of the day or year?
e. What can be done to make spaces better for different groups of people and for animals
f. How might you ‘improve’ these spaces?

Toolkits and guides are great resources – along with the Great Public Spaces Toolkit  and Guides for Observing Cities and People.

3. Explore the sound around you!

Go out into your own neighbourhood and observe the following – even turn into a soundscape:

a. What does your neighbourhood sound like? People, animals, machinery, wind, rain…
b. How does it change throughout the day?
c. How similar or different is it depending on the number of people who are mobile?
d. Is there a rhythm to the sounds?
e. Do you/could you navigate your way around your neighbourhood by sound only?
f. What would change if you could not hear/not hear?

4. Smell, Scent, Odour – go out into your own neighbourhood and observe the following – even turn into a soundscape:
a. What does your neighbourhood smell like? People, animals, machinery, wind, rain…
b. Is there a pattern to the smells?
c. How does it change throughout the day?
d. How does it change in different seasons?
e. What changes if there is a strong wind?


STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.


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