Ambassador Spotlight — Kimberly C. Porter, AICP

The Activity

For my activity I used a zoning board game called Blocks and Lots, which features themes of land use, politics, and urban development. My audience was the Irving Park YMCA Leaders' Club, a teen-led group that meets regularly to improve their community and world. This group participates in the network of Y-USA Leaders Clubs across Chicagoland, the Midwest and the country.


What was the goal of your activity? What did you want participants to come away with?

My goal for this game was to "zone a neighborhood" in order to teach students about the profession of urban planning and the built environment. I wanted the participants to walk away with an understanding of what planners do and how planning effects the world around them.

Structure and Flow

I came across the Leaders' Club via the YMCA's website. I had just moved into Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood and wanted to work within my new community. I remembered participating in several YMCA groups as a kid growing up here in Chicago, so that was the first place I investigated when I became an APA Ambassador.

The Blocks and Lots game is very straight forward, which was why I chose this activity. I was told by the administrator of the YMCA's Leaders' Club that these students were very active in the community; after "demoing" the game with some of my friends a few nights before, I knew this would be a good fit.

I used the various templates provided by APA's Ambassador program website to create a PowerPoint presentation that provided a brief overview of the planning profession. The presentation integrated photos of the students' neighborhood to spark discussion.

The participants were great. They really liked the Blocks and Lots game. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and could not complete the game. However, I was later asked to come back to assist the Leaders' Club with a community grant application.


What challenges did you face during your activity? What were your learning moments?

I did not face any challenges during the activity itself; however, the preparation was somewhat stressful. I actually had to contact the creator of the Blocks and Lots game in California to obtain a game board with better resolution. The creator was very nice and emailed me a much better copy of the board game that I was able to print and mount at FedEx.

The biggest learning moment was realizing that people actually understand the importance of planning — especially teens. My participants questioned why some people are able to live in very nice neighborhoods and others can't; why there isn't sufficient public transit in the suburbs where their grandparents live; and why there aren't Divvy bike [sharing] stations in their neighborhood. I realized as a planner the work that we do is important and although people may not be familiar with our profession — what we do is so important!

Tips for Other Ambassadors

What advice do you have for the Ambassadors who may be reading this information as a source of reference? Tips for starting or executing this type of activity?

One of the more challenging aspects of being an Ambassador was to make contact with an organization that would allow me to come speak. Don't give up! This program is so important. Utilize your professional networks as well as the APA Ambassador resources. My only tip for executing Blocks and Lots is to give yourself enough time to prepare. There are so many extra things you need to obtain for this game, but it is so much fun, and worth it!