Education: Mapping Their Citi

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Forget video games and instant messaging–this fall ninth and tenth graders at the Bushwick Academy for Urban Planning have discovered a far better use for computers.

As part of Community Information Technology Initiative (CITI) Youth Program, a partnership between the Planning Center of the Municipal Art Society and the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment, the students were trained to use myciti.org, a mapping website. Worksheets asked them to find their houses, acceptable property uses in their area and the year their school was built.

“It tells everything,” marveled Earl Dunn, a 15-year-old sophomore, who sat with his classmates, staring at the screen. Bright green manuals helped the students locate hard-to-find information.

Micaéla Birmingham, director of the Planning Center, explained the website’s uses and encouraged the students to apply for internships as “map technicians” with Community Board 4, which represents Bushwick. Working with the community board will show students how urban planning is applied in real life, she said, while giving the board a youth perspective.

The student interns will provide maps for areas the board is discussing, complete with zoning restrictions and building information. “Very rarely is there a map that everyone can see,” said Birmingham, who hopes to expand the program citywide. “The students get a fun leadership role because they’re the ones serving up the maps.”