Bruce Nesmith is a founding member of Strong Towns and professor of political science at Coe College. This semester, he’s teaching a freshman seminar called, "The Future of the City," and he chose to incorporate the Strong Towns Strength Test into his class.
He gave his students a writing assignment based on the Strength Test. Here’s their task:
Choose one of the ten questions from the strength test. […] Answer the question with as much descriptive detail as possible. However you answer the question, what do you think your answer says about your town? Is it a useful indicator of the town’s strength? Why do you think that question is included in the set of ten? What would you do, if anything, to change the situation in your town—and why?
Bruce says he’s assigned this as one of the first papers the students have to write because it’s a good entry point to a broader discussion about placemaking, urban planning, and walkability: “I think I just wanted to frame it so that they would be responding to something other than just I liked my hometown or I didn’t like my hometown—something that would nudge them into the kind of topics we’ll be discussing [in this class].”
His goal with the assignment is for students “to start thinking critically about where they are, and to be able to analyze why things in the town seem to be working or not working.”
Later in the semester, students will read several related books and essays including Suburban Nation by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, and potentially work by Joe Cortright at City Observatory.
We think the Strong Towns Strength Test is a great way to get people exploring issues of public space, housing, street design and more, in their hometown. Thanks to Strong Towns member Bruce Nesmith for taking that step with his students. And don't miss this short video of Bruce talking about why he's a member of Strong Towns.
Take the Strong Towns Strength Test today and find out if you live in a strong town.
(Top photo from WOCintech)