2002 Planning — Co-winner 1
City Hall School
The City of Calgary is putting the familiar phrase "children are our future" into action. A collaboration between the city and other partners, "City Hall School" promotes better understanding among students of the role of municipal government. Classrooms are moved into city hall for a week. Using real-life examples, students examine social and environmental issues in greater depth than occurs in regular class or at home. Parents learn alongside the students and teachers, and city staff is able to share its expertise with new audiences. Calgary is going beyond the "bricks and mortar" of community development by investing in its social infrastructure to create a sustainable, vibrant community for the future.
The city's strong commitments to youth and to the health, safety and well-being of the entire community provided the necessary backdrop to implementing the City Hall School. In the spring of 2001, the city set forth its policy and direction in "One Future, the City of Calgary's Commitment to Youth," which recognizes that decisions at all levels, and in all areas, can affect the lives of young people. Consequently, policies and decisions are continually evaluated to determine if they affect the lives of youth, and to ensure that any effect is positive.
Also that spring, the city completed its report based on the Calgary data drawn from FCM's Quality of Life Reporting System. The system monitors the social, economic and environmental health of communities, and employs eight sets of indicators: population resources, community affordability, quality of employment, quality of housing, community stress, health of the community, community safety, and community participation.
- Staff has embraced the program. More staff members are volunteering than can be accommodated, and the program is considered a great way to increase morale among employees.
- The students know they have made a difference. For example, Calgary's Parks department sought the input of one class for its five-year program plan. Another class provided urban planners with suggestions on what factors make up a youth-friendly neighbourhood.
- More than 60 teachers, 700 parent volunteers, 40 student teachers, and about 200 city staff members have been directly involved in the program.
- Demand is high, with more requests by teachers than the program can deliver over the school year.
- The Calgary Board of Education supports the program. Diane Murray was seconded to the City Hall School from the Calgary Board of Education. Her presence was a critical success factor. With 25 years of teaching experience, Ms. Murray has an excellent understanding of the curriculum and the challenges that teachers face.
Good communication with teachers and students, both before and during the on-site classes, alleviated the concerns of municipal staff members. "If the students are respectful of the need for people to do their jobs, it opens doors for them," said Ms. Murray. "When staff realize how cooperative the kids can be, we can get a lot further in [to the topic at issue] because staff know that the kids know the rules."
- Max Bell Foundation
- Campus Calgary Open Minds
- Calgary Catholic Board of Education
- Calgary Board of Education
- Calgary Foundation
- All city business units