This series features highlights from the ongoing exhibit The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall. The exhibit, on now at the Urbanspace Gallery, considers possible avenues to break down the barriers to participation in civic life that exist at Toronto’s City Hall.
Young people are a largely untapped population in local decision-making. Brimming with passion and energy, young people are often eager to join important conversations when they are given the knowledge and opportunity to make their voices heard.
As many cities have recognized, a culture of civic engagement begins by engaging young people. By making a habit of participating in civic life at a young age, these individuals are likely to be engaged into adulthood. A number of programs have sprung up to capitalize on this potential.
In Calgary, students from Grades 3 to 9 have the opportunity to spend a week at City Hall School learning about the mechanics of their local democracy. The intensive program includes special guest speakers from a number of city departments.
Closer to home, Maximum City, a program developed by Josh Fullan at the University of Toronto Schools, invites students to the city building conversation by helping them to understand the processes of city planning and local governance. Through guest appearances by experts in planning, transportation and government as well as hands-on design experiences, students are prepared to join the conversation about what our city should look like.
While these specialized programs are transformative learning experiences for those students lucky enough to participate, reaching all young citizens requires an overhaul of the provincial Civics curriculum. Advocates for this shift, such as Stephen Kagansky-Young of the Civics Education Network, are pushing for a full-year Civics course which pays due attention to topics in local government.
What is the best way to engage the youth of Toronto in local democracy? What do you wish you’d learned in high school about engaging with your city? We’d love to hear from you about how to better engage the next generation.
The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall is on at the Urbanspace Gallery (401 Richmond St. W.) until the end of the year. The building is open weekdays, 7am to 7pm, and Saturdays, 9am to 6pm. Curated by Dave Meslin, Research by Hilary Best, Design by Adam Zinzan-Harris.