Strong Towns 101: Taking the Movement to School


Now and then, we get an email from someone in academia sharing how much the Strong Towns movement means to them. We’ve had college professors tell us they’ve included our content in their curriculum; graduate students have sent their papers influenced by Strong Towns; we’ve even given a virtual presentation to a class at Harvard. It’s always a blast!

We love this, truly.

As we discuss how we can inspire people across the nation to embrace a new pattern of development (one that doesn’t leave local governments with millions of dollars in long-term liabilities), we must embrace the students: the current planning, political science, architecture and civil engineering students who will one day be running or otherwise shaping our cities.

However, a few weeks ago, a news story crossed our desk that reminded us that the Strong Towns impact runs deeper through academia than universities—it’s resonating with high school students, as well.

In early May, the Pierce County Tribune wrote an article about how a teacher at Rugby High School in North Dakota created a community building class that caught the attention of North Dakota’s governor.

Now, here’s the cool part: that class, which gives the students hands-on experiences to improve their community, was influenced by Strong Towns. Yes, you read that right: Strong Towns inspired a high school teacher in Rugby, with a population of 3,000, to create a whole new high school class, rooted in incrementalism.

In this special member drive episode, our Community Builder Jacob Moses converses with Kevin Leier, social studies teacher at Rugby High School and creator of the school’s community building class, plus three students currently enrolled in the class.

In this episode, Kevin and his students share how the class has used Strong Towns principles to educate their peers, including how Kevin introduced incrementalism to the students, how the students used Strong Towns concepts to strengthen their town, and what the students hope Rugby looks like in the future.