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Nashville: Building Blocks

Nashville: Building Blocks

Nashville Public Library Foundation

Program Summary

This proposal, Nashville: Building Blocks, seeks funding for a late summer workshop in which youth will collaboratively engage in a variety of urban planning activities—including designing public spaces and developing transportation structures. Youth urban planners will (re)imagine, design, construct, and improve the city of Nashville through the game Minecraft. The workshop will run as a collaboration between educators at the Nashville Public Library and Vanderbilt University as well as designers at the Nashville Civic Design Center. Minecraft enables players to build, create, and play together in a world they construct and re-construct with blocks. Each activity in the workshop aims to connect youth further to their city and to develop civic engagement through Minecraft’s unique combination of making and gaming as well as foster a host of digital literacy and citizenship practices, including connecting safely, collaborating purposefully, and communicating effectively both in-game and face-to-face.

Inspired by a partnership between Minecraft developer, Mojang, and UN Habitat, Nashville: Building Blocks enables youth to design their city’s future. Working alongside educators, urban planners, and architects, participants will hone their Minecraft skills by exploring—and building—Nashville’s neighborhoods within Minecraft, confronting key issues facing Nashville’s urban planners and architects while doing so. Successive sessions will gradually release participants into the ever-expanding world of Minecraft, one in which they will employ new media literacies to design and construct their vision for their city. Citizenship will extend beyond game-play as participants consult user-generated videos, participate in online discussions, create demonstration videos and more. In a culminating session, participants will share their experience, creations, and visions with members of Nashville’s Civic Design Center.

The workshop will be open to fifteen teens, ages 13-18, and will take place at the Nashville Public Library’s Teen Center August 20-22, August 27-29, September 3-5, 3:30-6:00 PM.


The following draft agenda details an overview and guiding objectives for each day, emphasizing citizenship, literacy, and urban planning. It features visits from urban planning experts within the Nashville community with whom organizers have ongoing relationships. Urban Planning Objectives are based on The Nashville Civic Design Center’s Ten Principles for “The Plan of Nashville.” Participants will focus on three of the ten principles in their designs, namely Principle 3: “(Re)establish the streets as principle public space of community and connectivity”; Principle 4: “Develop a convenient and efficient transportation structure”; and Principle 5: “Provide for a comprehensive greenway and park system.”

Day and Objectives:

1 Overview: Program introduction. Explore Nashville+, a pre-designed Minecraft world based on participants’ neighborhoods. Design and build a home.
Citizenship Objective (CO): Collaborate with peers/mentors in-game and face-to-face to achieve common goal.
Literacy Objective (LO): Develop in-game spatial awareness; plan resource and tool development for design goals.
Urban Planning Objective (UPO): Describe key aspects of urban planning (aesthetics, safety, housing, decay, renewal, transport)

2 Architect from Gobbell Hays Partners visits; emphasis on urban planning and built/natural environment; design and build initial structures in Nashville+.
CO: Effectively collaborate across digital and physical contexts; share knowledge and resources. Describe and employ safe sharing practices.
LO: Cultivate personal repertoire of helpful online resources (wikis, videos); critique and evaluate resources for effective communication.
UPO: Describe role of landscape/environment as community resource.

3 Design and construct public spaces that facilitate community development.
CO: Identify and describe diverse forms of digital citizenship across Minecraft resources: What are most helpful? What differentiates those from others that are less helpful?
LO: Predict and remedy issues of resource (wood, minerals) sustainability.
UPO: Critique plans for public spaces in “utopian” cities.

4 Travel to other multiplayer Minecraft servers for inspiration/comparison; design and build parks/greenway.
CO: Identify and describe positive multiplayer interactions; analyze potential safety issues within multiplayer environments.
LO: Effectively participate/navigate different servers and semiotic domains.
UPO: Describe role of parks/greenway in community development; evaluate park system in Nashville.

5 Nashville Center for Civic Design Fellow visits; develop greenway to connect parks; utilize natural environment.
CO: Effectively deliberate designs with peers (in-game, in-real-life).
LO: Calculate in-game resource combinations necessary for advanced tools.
UPO: Critique examples of greenway integration in cities.

6 Begin to design and construct transportation plan.
CO: Collaborate with peers/mentors to develop transportation plan.
LO: Operationalize maps and compass for advanced spatial practices.
UPO: Identify Nashville’s transportation issues; describe transit-oriented development (TOD) and implement in design.

7 “Transit Now” Nashville representative visits; design and construct transit system.
CO: Identify and articulate potential safe/productive and unsafe/unproductive online resources; describe diverse opinions evident online.
LO: Engineer advanced, self-operating mechanisms.
UPO: Evaluate designed transportation system based on TOD.

8 Video walk-thru of final products.
CO: Collaborate with partner in-game/in-real-life to create video product.
LO: Record and edit video walk-thru of Nashville+, describing vision and experience in the workshop. Upload to Nashville: Building Blocks YouTube Channel.

9 Presentation to Nashville Center for Civic Design

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