Y-PLAN Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about Y-PLAN. If this section does not answer a question you have, you can find more detailed information in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit’s (coming soon) various materials.
What does Y-PLAN stand for?
Y-PLAN stands for Youth – Plan, Learn, Act Now. It is also a pun, inviting participants to ask: Why Plan?
The questions below illustrate how asking ‘why’ can allow you to better understand your surroundings, identify challenges, and ultimately lead you to solutions!
- Why do I not feel safe walking through my neighhorhood?
- Why are conditions on my block so different from those just a few blocks away?
- Why are there so few healthy food options in this part of the city?
Who participates in Y-PLAN?
Y-PLAN projects involve civic leaders, K-12 educators, and – in most cases – higher education partners. Descriptions of their respective roles can be found in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit (coming soon).
How long do Y-PLAN projects last?
The length of projects can vary significantly, ranging from just one week to several months. In most cases, however, projects occur over four to eight weeks so that students have time to develop a deeper understanding of background information, conduct high-quality research, and refine their policy proposals. You can learn about how long each module typically lasts here!
If you are working with less than three weeks – or want to first test out the methodology – consider using the Y-PLAN Mini. This shortened version of the process can be completed in as little as several hours!
Is it possible to organize several, consecutive Y-PLAN projects that explore the same or related topics?
This is actually encouraged, as multi-year partnerships offer clear advantages! Consistently working with the same individuals and/or institutions enables partners to establish personal relationships and a deeper sense of trust. It also allows them to improve their process, making the start-up phase easier from year to year. For example, by the second iteration of a project, the civic client will already be aware of relevant K-12 school policies and the teacher will know more about the city planning topic. Similarly, collaborating over several projects means K-12 educators, civic clients, and higher-ed partners do not need to secure new partners as frequently.
Multi-year collaborations can also produce youth insights that are more useful to civic clients. Some city planning topics are enormous in scope and are difficult to unpack sufficiently in just a few weeks; students may answer an overly-broad project question with equally broad recommendations. Therefore, it can be valuable to have 2-3 projects explore different facets of a city planning issue.
How do K-12 educators, civic clients, and higher-ed partners get in touch with one another to begin collaborating?
Many projects emerge from existing personal relationships and organizational networks. Nevertheless, you can find step-by-step tips for establishing partnerships in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit (coming soon).
If you adopt this methodology, do you need to brand the initiative as ‘Y-PLAN’?
It is completely up to you! You may find that using the ‘Y-PLAN’ label is helpful in communicating to colleagues and potential partners that you are using a proven, evidence-based strategy. That being said, feel free to frame Y-PLAN projects as a part of a new or existing youth engagement initiative; we are far more interested in providing effective tools to like-minded educators and civic leaders than we are in growing the Y-PLAN brand.
Regardless of what you decide, the CC+S staff is excited to learn to how you are using and building upon the methodology! Sending us updates allows us to highlight your work and share new, innovative practices with other Y-PLAN participants.
Can Y-PLAN occur during after-school programs or informal educational settings?
Yes, they can. However, for equity reasons, Y-PLAN projects have traditionally occurred during the K-12 school day in classroom settings. Research indicates that marginalized youth often do not partake in after-school or extracurricular programs. Y-PLAN projects occurring in public school classrooms tend to reach larger, more diverse student populations.
How does this work translate to smaller cities and more rural areas?
Absolutely! Y-PLAN can certainly be applied to more rural contexts! As long as there are local officials or community leaders working on issues that are relevant to young people, civic youth engagement can be highly impactful. For example, Y-PLAN was used in small rural and coastal cities in the Tohoku region of Japan to support recovery efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
How are Y-PLAN projects funded?
All of the materials needed to carry out Y-PLAN projects are now publicly available in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit. Since many Y-PLAN projects are integrated into the school day, they usually do not require any external funds. Some projects use small grants to finance field trips and other off-campus learning excursions.
Does Y-PLAN align with major academic standards and initiatives?
It does! Y-PLAN projects are rigorous, high-quality learning experiences that build college, career, and civic readiness. Y-PLAN supports the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S), as well as emerging project-based learning (PBL) and ‘linked learning’ initiatives.
Y-PLAN’s theoretical framework and curriculum are informed by school-to-career research. By providing students with versatile, real-world skills, Y-PLAN is well-suited for schools with ‘career academies’ that offer specialized curricula related to certain fields and professions.
Whether and How is Y-PLAN different from YPAR (Youth-Participatory Action Research)?
Y-PLAN and YPAR are complementary strategies and share many similarities, as both improve educational experiences by having young people investigate and shape real-world issues. However, they have notable differences in how project topics are selected and ultimately approached.
YPAR asks young people to independently choose topics before recruiting relevant community partners. Y-PLAN students, on the other hand, typically are presented with critical project questions from civic partners who genuinely need youth insights to support their work. These individuals are referred to as ‘civic clients’ to underscore the professional dynamic of Y-PLAN partnerships; students essentially serve as youth consultants for decisionmakers engaged in authentic, civic initiatives.
Can K-12 teachers lead Y-PLAN projects in their school if their school district has not formally adopted the methodology?
Yes, absolutely! Like any project-based learning (PBL) endeavor, Y-PLAN projects are significant undertakings and most teachers benefit from at least some institutional support but many teachers can also incorporate this approach on their own. If you would like to pitch Y-PLAN to your colleagues, you can refer them to this website so they can learn about the methodology and see examples of previous projects.
Can participating K-12 teachers continue following their own curricula?
Yes! Y-PLAN is meant to supplement, not replace, an educator’s curricular plans. A suite of lesson planning and teaching resources is available in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit (coming soon), all of which can be adapted to suit your needs.
Can K-12 teachers use parts of the Y-PLAN process without adopting the entire methodology?
While teachers are free to pick and choose specific Y-PLAN materials and lessons that are most helpful, it is not recommended to deviate from the methodology’s underlying, five-step process. These phases follow a simple yet rigorous research process that has been refined over twenty years to maximize student engagement and project impact.
Do K-12 educators need to have existing knowledge on – or teach a subject directly related to – the city planning topics their projects focus on?
Background knowledge is not required! During the project development process, civic partners are invited to provide K-12 educators with background information on relevant city planning issues. Higher-ed partners can also assist in this regard. Additional resources that explain planning topics can be found in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit.
City planning, and community development more specifically, is an incredibly interdisciplinary field. As a result, many K-12 educators can participate in Y-PLAN, even if the subjects they teach do not appear connected to policy-making and design. For example, an English teacher’s students helped the Oakland Housing Authority develop communications strategies to inform marginalized communities about earthquake vulnerability and readiness. Her classes learned background information on earthquake science and engineering solutions but primarily focused on her area of expertise: developing clear and effective messaging.
Can more than one K-12 teacher participate in the same Y-PLAN project simultaneously?
Certainly! Y-PLAN offers teachers excellent opportunities for collaboration. Should multiple teachers implement the same project, they are encouraged to streamline their efforts, coordinating logistics such as field trips and meetings with project partners.
Participating teachers can develop integrated curricula across subjects but do not need to be equally involved; for example, a science teacher who is overseeing a Y-PLAN project could see if a social studies teacher could spend one class period examining the historical underpinnings of the project topic. Despite being a minor time commitment for the supporting teacher, this single lesson could offer students a far deeper understanding of the issue.
How do students’ parents and caregivers factor into Y-PLAN projects?
Parents and caregivers can play a valuable role in the Y-PLAN process! For example, during the data collection phase of a project, students interview and survey loved ones and community members to document local experiences. Some guardians also serve as chaperones during field trips. The experience that parents and caregivers often find the most meaningful is seeing students’ final presentations. To increase the number of loved ones in attendance, presentations should ideally occur after the school day.
Who qualifies as a ‘civic client’ and/or community partner?
There are many different types of Y-PLAN civic clients, ranging from public officials to nonprofit directors. They do, however, share certain characteristics: they are working on a real-world challenge – social and/or physical in nature – that affects young people, they genuinely want and need youth insights, and they have the power to actually implement policy and/or design changes.
What are a civic client’s responsibilities and how much time do they require?
In addition to posing a project question for students to address, clients usually attend two to three planning meetings with K-12 and higher-ed partners before a project officially begins. These conversations often require a combined 2-3 hours. Once students start working on a project, clients participate in three core events, typically totaling between five and ten hours. Information on what these three touchpoints entail can be found in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit.
Can a project have more than one civic client?
This is certainly an option! It can be beneficial for students to meet with other community leaders as part of their research process and network-building. That being said, avoid having clients from more than two separate organizations, as the scope of a project may become too broad and confusing for students. Having multiple clients can also be logistically complicated; for example, aligning schedules for client events can prove more challenging.
Do higher education partners need to be in city and/or regional planning departments?
No! While city and regional planning departments are obviously well-suited for Y-PLAN, faculty and students from other disciplines have also contributed to past projects; these fields include public policy, civil and environmental engineering, education, etc.
Can participating higher-ed instructors continue following their own curricula?
Yes! Y-PLAN is meant to supplement, not replace, an educator’s curricular plans. Reviewing the role of higher-ed partners, as well as speaking with potential K-12 and civic partners, will help professors determine whether their level of involvement is satisfactory.
What is the role of higher-ed students in Y-PLAN projects?
Higher-ed faculty partners often provide undergraduate and/or graduate students, known as ‘Y-PLAN College Mentors,’ to support K-12 students and teachers during certain in-class activities, such as survey development and brainstorming charrettes. In many cases, mentors visit K-12 classrooms two to four times over the course of a project. More information on their responsibilities can be found in the Y-PLAN Digital Toolkit.
Do all projects require Y-PLAN Mentors and, if so, how many are usually needed?
No! This is not required, but nice to have when possible. College Mentors can greatly assist K-12 partners, particularly when teachers are new to the Y-PLAN process. It is generally a good idea to have one mentor for every five students but this depends on the size of K-12 classes as well as teacher preferences. For example, some K-12 teachers may prefer to have just one or two mentors visit on select occasions whereas others may want to host numerous mentors on a more regular basis.
Can multiple higher-ed partners support the same Y-PLAN project and, if so, can they participate in different ways?
Yes! This is definitely possible. Involving multiple faculty partners help K-12 students understand interdisciplinary facets of their project topics. However, this adds logistical complexity so it is advisable for there to be a clear ‘faculty lead,’ who is the primary liaison to K-12 educators. In most cases, the faculty lead’s students serve as Y-PLAN Mentors. Other higher-ed partners can then participate with greater precision, supporting specific activities or events.
An example of this arrangement occurred during an earthquake resilience project in Oakland, California. A professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of City & Regional Planning (DCRP) served as the higher-ed lead, overseeing coordination and providing Y-PLAN Mentors. Partners from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) supported the project by facilitating an in-class demonstration and a field trip.