The “Design Star” program run by Jessica Pelz of the Planning Division and Jan Wolf, the city’s GIS Analyst, is an award winning annual program that began in 2006. Design Star is a learning collaboration between the City and local schools that includes almost every 6th grader in Newberg (Mountainview Middle School, Chehalem Valley Middle School, and CS Lewis Academy).
The program begins with Jessica and Jan going into the schools and giving a presentation about the city. Jan uses GIS to show information about the city such as bare earth, utilities, addresses, parcels and even population data. Jessica uses the comprehensive plan layer to illustrate how the city is organized and discusses why cities are organized in the way they are. They then conduct a discussion with the kids about the things that a city "needs" versus "wants", possible impacts of popular ideas for "wants" (i.e. amusement parks), their favorite parts about Newberg now, and what things Newberg might be missing to make it a great place to live. After the presentation, they introduce the kids to their assignment - to be developers and come up with a development proposal for one of two vacant sites in town. The two sites chosen for the Design Star project are the vacant site across from City Hall and the vacant site south of the Allison Hotel.
The teachers have integrated the Design Star program into their lessons and the kids work on the project in groups for two weeks. The Mountainview Middle School kids present their projects to us, first at their school, and then they narrow the projects down and present some of their ideas at a City Council work session. The Chehalem Valley Middle School and CS Lewis Academy kids do presentations to their classes and we hang their project ideas at City Hall and the Public Safety Building for the public to see. The Design Star program works well because it teaches the kids about how the city works while also encouraging and empowering them to be creative in finding ways to be involved and improve their own surroundings. The kids do a great job on this project and really come up with comprehensive and creative ideas for both design sites.
Design Star has won many awards, including from the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association, the national American Planning Association, and League of Oregon Cities. We'd like to give a special thank you to Mr. Willing (now retired), Ms. Bryant, Mr. Alpert, and Ms. Buck at Mountainview Middle School, Mrs. Rice and Mrs. Halstead at Chehalem Valley Middle School, and Mr. Dehaven at CS Lewis Academy, for making this program possible. You can see a YouTube video about the project by clicking here.