Center for Urban Pedagogy

The Center for Urban Pedagogy Designs Student/Community Engagement

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement. CUP collaborates with designers, educators, advocates, students, and communities to make educational tools that demystify complex policy and planning issues.

Collaborating with a teaching artist and using Adobe Photoshop, CUP worked with students from the Brooklyn College Community Partnership after-school program at Wingate High School. Together they used their drawings, photos, and music to tell a story about home ownership, financing, and community organizing in a way that made seemingly boring, but economically critical issues, interesting in a low-income area of Brooklyn. The completed multimedia storybook, called "I Heart East New York," is both a teaching tool and a teaching method.

The students who created the book wanted to know how new houses in their community would change their neighborhood. To find answers, they conducted site visits and interviewed stakeholders, uncovering a surprising model of community development in one of the city's poorest areas. They worked as a collaborative design team, creating an innovative teaching tool to capture and share their findings. On July 23, 2009, students presented "I Heart East New York" to an audience of artists, architects, and advocates at the Sculpture Center in New York City. Students also shared their experience on an East Village radio show during Performa 2009, a festival of performance art.

Many of the participating students harbored negative opinions of their neighborhood and were disengaged from traditional classroom education. But with this interactive multimedia project, CUP furthered its mission to use art, design, and visual culture to improve the quality of public participation in urban planning. It succeeded in helping students realize that they can ask questions, figure out how things work, and understand community-based systems for change. By creating a shareable, accessible teaching tool, students learned to use their individual strengths as learners, as well as teachers, artists, and journalists.