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Re-Imagining Westport, 8th-Grade Style

Plenty of time and energy has been invested in re-imagining downtown Westport — deciding what’s needed to inject a little life in the ol’ place.

There’s been much talk too about the importance of developing Westport students’ critical thinking, 21st-century skills.

Downtown Westport has gotten a bit grungy lately.

The twain met today at Coleytown Middle School.  Five teams of 8th-grade students — winnowed down from a few dozen who began the project — presented their plans for making downtown both prettier and zippier.

Analytical thinking — not to mention a great grasp of history, government, finance, town planning, the environment, Google Earth, Photoshop, Excel, writing, video-making and presentation skills — was on full display in the auditorium.

The 5 groups (4-5 students each) unveiled their ideas before a group of judges that included the 2nd selectman and superintendent of schools.  (Also, me.)

Using maps, 3-models, full-color handouts, detailed financial projections — and, most importantly, foresight and creativity — the middle schoolers introduced a variety of ideas.  For example:

Those are great ideas.  Some are easily doable; some would take work; a few are probably impractical.  All, however, show a depth of understanding and sense of community not often associated with 8th graders.

Now let’s  start working on the best ones.

How to begin?

Hire the Coleytown kids as consultants.

The boardwalk by the Saugatuck River is nice. But when was the last time you used it?

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