Eighth-graders in John Bartholow’s geography classes are studying a unit on "The United States, Canada & Urban Geography" which incorporates three case studies on urban sprawl in the cities of Portland, Oregon; Atlanta, Georgia; and Toronto, Ontario. This unit expanded upon a unit that the previous eighth-grade geography instructor, Dustin Sharstrom, developed for his students in prior years.
According to Bartholow, students took different perspectives (environmentalists, housing developers, smart growth advocates, affordable housing advocates, and planning commissioners) and analyzed each situation before they discussed the solution each city ultimately picked.
To localize the lessons, Bartholow brought in three guest speakers, with ties to St. Peter, to talk to each class about sustainable urban growth in this community. Each student was also asked to develop two questions to ask their class’s speaker in advance. Those speakers included:
- Mark Plotz – a member of the city of St. Peter’s Planning & Zoning Commission and former urban planner. He is the owner of The Smallest Cog Bicycle Shop in St. Peter.
- Ben Baker – the Community Development Director for the city of St. Peter who oversees zoning and land use.
- Rev. Andy Davis – chair of the city of St. Peter’s Planning & Zoning Commission and Pastor of Union Presbyterian Church in St. Peter. He studied Geography and Planning at Macalester College (St. Paul).
“Many students asked excellent questions, reflecting what we learned from our case studies, and asking about future developments in St. Peter for housing and transportation,” Bartholow said. “Mark Plotz tended to focus on how cities ended up designed the way they are; Ben Baker focused more on city government; and Andy Davis focused on how to design a city. All speakers were well-received and treated with respect."
(PICTURED ABOVE) St. Peter Community Development Director Ben Baker speaks to one of Mr. Bartholow's eighth grade geography classes about city government.
Local business owner and St. Peter Planning Commission member Mark Plotz speaks to eighth graders at SPMS on urban growth both here and around the world.
St. Peter Planning Commission Chair Rev. Andy Davis spoke to the SPMS eighth grade geography students on city design.