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Urban Planning, City Design #4: Highline Park, Urban Renewal

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn what can be done with parts of the city when they are no longer useful or safe.   How can an older or rundown part of the city be transformed?  Can we change what we have or must we build something new?  Using the world-famous example of NYC’s Highline Park, students will be inspired by purposeful and transformational urban change.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Each student will be able to explain the concept of urban renewal and give an example of a successful urban renewal project.  (AASL 3.1.5, “Connect learning to community issues.”) (Key Concept: Change.)

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete an assignment that asks them to think critically about outdated, run-down, or worn-out places in a city.  Using the example of NYC’s Highline Park, students will come up with creative solutions for an urban decay problem.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

In the “tuning in” lesson, students generated a list of buildings/places in cities, then created a class skyline.  Explain that today we are going to look closely at a problem some cities have as they age.  New cities rarely have old infrastructure in need of demolition or repair.  However, older cities are often faced with aging or deteriorating buildings and infrastructure.  In this lesson, we think about ways to handle parts of the city that are no longer useful.

2. Main:

Use the PowerPoint presentation (attached) to introduce the concept of urban renewal.  Adapt this for your city as needed.

Push hard to get the kids to come up with ideas for what could have been done with the old train tracks.  Many of them will say, “Tear them down.”  That is what most New Yorkers assumed would happen.  But, in this case, a few people had a different vision and created something new and incredibly successful.

Once the children have talked through the problem and come up with a few solutions, tell them that New York turned the old train tracks into a park!  Show the video, “The Highline Design Video”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-yEb4JT-A8  The video moves quickly so you may wish to stop it in places to make sure the kids understand how the park was built.

3. Conclusion:

Emphasize that there are no limits to what can be done in our cities.  Cities today look nothing like cities of the past.  Today cities are greener, more beautiful, and more purposefully built.  Challenge the children to look for urban renewal projects in their own neighborhoods, or perhaps to even get involved with a local project.

  1. Introductory PowerPoint presentation explaining the setting and background for the High Line Urban Renewal project.
  2. The High Line Design Video 2008: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-yEb4JT-A8
  3. Images of the High Line from NYC Parks: https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/the-high-line/photos
  4. High Line official web page “Friends of the High Line” (great video resources):  http://www.thehighline.org/
  5. Computer, screen, and projector for showing students the PowerPoint and video.

As far as I am aware, there are not children’s books about The Highline.  However, there are several other videos and photos on the Friends of the High Line web page.  Be sure to check those out.

Recommended books for this lesson:


Key Terms:

Urban Renewal, Highline Park, New York City, Parks, Urban Decay, Inner Cities, Urban Architecture

High Line Photos and Info