Simsbury High School’s AP Economics class is enabling students to solve real world economic development problems in their own community by developing conceptual plans for local projects under development. Simsbury High and the Simsbury Main Street Partnership were the winners of CMSC’s 2015 Award of Excellence for Main Street Partnership for their successful collaboration.
2015 Award of Excellence for Main Street Partnership
Simsbury High AP Economics Course: Engaging Students in Real World Economic Development at Home
Recipients: Simsbury Main Street Partnership, Simsbury High School
Opportunities & Challenges:
- Over the past 10 years, Simsbury Main Street Partnership has established a strong partnership with Simsbury’s public schools. The award-winning Culinary Arts Training program matched high school students with the local banquet facility, where students took classes for credit on site while engaged in real-life work experience. More recently, Main Street partnered with the Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Education to create a marketing brochure for local realtors which promotes Simsbury’s outstanding public schools, in order to attract young families to the community.
- Given that the course itself is an Advanced Placement (AP) course in both micro and macroeconomics, most of the school year is spent learning the concepts and models of economics so that students can understand why markets work the way they do.
- The primary focus of this unit is to educate students about various issues that are part of the development process, by providing a bridge between town government and policy, so that students better understand the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder. This information also allows students to experience a myriad of disciplines from urban planning, architecture, finance, real estate development, and community development within a working framework.
- The selected 2014 site is owned by Ensign Bickford, a major employer in town. The company is planning on developing the site in the next five years, and was thrilled to have student input on visions for the future. Previous sites included the sprawling suburban corporate campus of The Hartford.
- Under the leadership of teacher Robert Jeffers and Simsbury Main Street President Rich Correia, the AP Economics unit is co-facilitated, using a real-life project, to engage students in critical thinking as they craft their plan for a particular parcel of land.
- Students are given an orientation to the Main Street program, so they understand the complexity of economic and community development issues, how to create places that people want to come to, and how to attract high-quality development consistent with the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development. Architects and planners address the need for good planning principles married to good design. Bankers and Real Estate developers give tips and information on financing construction as well as market principles, so students can identify solutions that are viable in today’s marketplace.
- Students are then divided into small groups to formulate their concepts for the selected development parcel. They are provided maps that show how and where their designs are situated, and interact with the surrounding neighborhood.
- The 2014 AP Economics class proposed myriad development concepts, including a brewery with tours and a retail component, an independent movie theater with a restaurant component, and a residential development that ties in to the bike trail, which runs very close to the property.
- Students present their final plans to an audience that includes the property owner, the first selectman, leaders of the Simsbury Main Street Partnership, and expert guest speakers from earlier in the course.
- This unique course bridges a gap between town government, the public schools, and the development community. Students have a much better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the development process, while also exploring various disciplines within a working framework.
- This impressive course is creating a generation of engaged citizens by helping students understand land use planning and economic development on a personal level.