March 22, 2024

Honors, LPS students imagine Lincoln's future

Honors student and Engineering Ambassador Adam Algahimi helps a student at Calvert Elementary work on her CityBuild model.

Honors student and Engineering Ambassador Adam Algahimi helps a student at Calvert Elementary work on her CityBuild model.

Imagine Lincoln in 2040 — what tourist attractions or local amenities could this Great Plains city have?

CityBuild 2040 allowed local elementary school students and University of Nebraska–Lincoln undergraduates to create their vision for Lincoln. From March 10-17, a group of Nebraska Honors students kicked off their biannual CityBuild 2040 project in Lincoln. Led by Sawyer Smith, Honors coordinator, the project engaged Hartley and Calvert Elementary School students. This initiative, piloted in Crete in 2021 and since hosted in Grand Island and Schuyler, has now brought the benefits of the innovative and interactive curriculum to Lincoln.

“We always look forward to the enthusiasm and fresh ideas the elementary school students bring, and our Honors students are well-equipped to help realize those ideas,” Smith said.

CityBuild 2040, a project developed by Beyond School Bells, involves hands-on activities using recycled and crafting materials. The objective is to stimulate young students to conceptualize and construct a model of their dream future community. The Honors students, alongside staff for afterschool programs and ambassadors from the College of Engineering, play a pivotal role in mentoring and helping bring the cardboard cities to life. They facilitate conversations with young students to enrich their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. This experience also gives college students greater insight into the Lincoln community and helps them gain leadership and networking skills.

Early stages of Lincoln 2040 models were created by Calvert Elementary students.
Students work on early Lincoln 2040 models at Calvert Elementary.

The elementary students actively collaborated with their mentors throughout the week, distributing tasks and working together to build their future city. CityBuild 2040 concluded with a community showcase, allowing elementary school students to present and explain their creations to mentors and families.

Trenton Ditter, an Honors student who facilitated the curriculum in Schuyler last fall and again during his spring break in Lincoln, was enthusiastic to participate a second time.

“It was great bringing CityBuild to Hartley and Calvert elementaries and encouraging our future leaders to have pride in our community here in Lincoln,” Ditter said. A first-year physics major, Ditter has participated as a CityBuild facilitator during each of his first two semesters in college. “I enjoyed engaging with the students as they brainstormed ways to bring new life to their communities.”

The Honors Program’s ongoing focus on community engagement, and strong partnership with Beyond School Bells, have allowed many Honors students to gain valuable professional experience. More importantly, CityBuild 2040, now in its fourth year, continues to connect Honors students to the Nebraska community while providing opportunities to give back and form meaningful connections.