Environmental Science: Creating More Sustainable Cities

  • September 15, 2017
  • 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Voyagers

Environmental Science: Creating More Sustainable Cities

An Urban Planning Simulation for Homeschooling Teens

Computer simulations allow us to explore problems by using technology and virtual experiences that would be too complicated or expensive to construct in the real world. This program gives older homeschoolers the opportunity to learn and practice the skills of professional field scientists and planners. You will join a regional planning firm as a virtual intern, do some fieldwork, and gather information from stakeholder groups as YOU design a land use plan for the urban community of Lowell.

As part of the planning and design process, you will go on two site visits (“field trips”) to nearby locations. (Please provide your own transportation.) At Rocky Hill, we will explore Blanding’s turtle habitat and see how one town is balancing development and conservation. In Lowell, we visit examples of urban development and explore how this historic city is working to reinvent itself. All of the field visits will help you weigh the trade-offs of different land use decisions in the city and elsewhere. Back at the “office,” you will use what you’ve learned to test your best ideas and use iPlan, a custom-designed Geographic Information System, to develop a land use plan for the city of Lowell.

Recommended Audience

This course is intended for individuals writing, reading, and researching  at a high school level. Participants will be researching, discussing and analyzing information as a group, prior to drafting individual proposals. The ability and commitment of all participants to work at this level and to collaborate with the group  is important to a positive experience for all.  

Most coursework can be completed during class time; some portions of the work may be completed outside of class time at the participant’s discretion.

This program will require high school level work, suggested ages 13 – 19.


September 15 – November 17, 2017 (10 weeks)
Fridays 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Field trips:

Two classes will be field trips:

September 22 – Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Groton

Late October (exact date tbd) – City of Lowell 

Parents are responsible for providing transportation to and from the site visits.


For the first class, participants will meet with Course Coordinator Kristin Steinmetz at Voyagers Resource Center for an introductory orientation to the computer program.  After that, participants will meet at Voyagers each week to work collaboratively with their team and two adult online mentors, or “planning consultants” who will guide the program.

With the exception of the orientation session, the course coordinator and online mentors will be conducting the class remotely. Parents will be asked to to remain on site unless they have made arrangements with another parent, and to take turns at assisting with any technical or classroom management issues that may arise. Parents supervising the group will be asked to complete a CORI check through Voyagers.

Participants may take part remotely by logging on at class times and participating virtually with the group meeting at Voyagers and the online mentors. Those taking part in the class remotely are urged to attend the introductory session, as well as the site visits, if possible.

A computer will be required at all class sessions, except for the site visits.  Technical requirements: a high speed internet connection (available at Voyagers); updated Firefox or Google Chrome. Internet Explorer will not work with this program.

Cost and registration

Cost: $125 for Voyagers members/$150 for nonmembers 

Payment in full is due at the time of registration.


About the provider

This program is offered by Mass Audubon Wachusett Meadow and hosted by Voyagers, Inc. The program was developed by the University of Wisconsin’s Epistemic Games Group, in partnership with Mass Audubon, and is made available at low cost, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Please contact Kristin Steinmetz for information about content: ksteinmetz@massaudubon.org

For other questions, please contact RCDirector@voyagersinc.org

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