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A street-level view of Sydney

Our Year 10 Geography students visited Chippendale and Newtown last week to see if urban policy and development has helped to shape these areas in more human-centric ways.

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With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, and new mega-metropolises mushrooming in Asia, Latin America and Africa, urbanisation is one of the defining processes of modern times. Urbanisation is the process by which cities grow and change. But in order to evolve sustainably, issues such as housing affordability, liveability, demographic change, population growth and climate change must be factored into urban policy and development.

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As part of their studies, Year 10 are looking into the nature of urbanisation through the City of Sydney’s approach to urban policy and development. In 1917, town planning advocate, JD Fitzgerald described Sydney as “A city without a plan, save whatever planning was due to an errant goat.” In later years, the Australian poet, Kenneth Slessor described the city as a “dispersed and vaguer Venice.” In recent times, there have been improvements to Sydney’s infrastructure, with the introduction of the light rail and the metro making the CBD a more connected, walkable and sustainable city. But in the face of rapid growth and development, how have different neighbourhoods responded to change? How have areas that are home to houses, units, universities, global organisations and clusters of locally grown businesses adapted? And do the public spaces in these areas serve to promote the health, happiness, and wellbeing of the people who live, work and play here?

Last week, our Year 10 Geography students, accompanied by Mrs Sproule, Mr Morton, Ms Powell and Ms Craft, went on an excursion to explore the suburbs of Newtown and Chippendale. Their aim was to investigate the hypothesis ‘Recent population growth in Sydney has presented both opportunities and challenges’ as part of the Changing Places unit of work.

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Annie in Year 10 said, “We went on the excursion to further our understanding of population growth and how it contributes to creating a sense of community within an area. Without doubt, this excursion was my favourite excursion at Wenona so far, as we were able to explore each location in our groups whilst learning many valuable Geography skills. For me, the highlight of the day was exploring Chippendale, being able to see the UTS campus and trying lots of delicious foods. Spice Alley has some amazing food and I would highly recommend visiting it! Overall, this excursion was interesting, lots of fun and a great way to spend the day.”

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Caitlin said, “On the excursion, we completed traffic counts and a RICEPOTS (Residential, Industrial, Commercial, Entertainment, Public Building, Open Space, Transport, Services) Survey for both areas, which gave us a better knowledge of the area we were studying. We wrote down observations about the suburbs and unleashed our inner artists by trying to draw a field sketch. Finally, we completed an environmental quality survey of both suburbs. Overall, it was an amazing opportunity for all of Year 10 Geography students to practice the skills we’ve learnt in class.”

Walking around these suburbs and thinking about them from the point of view of urban planning and design, social and economic development, community participation and engagement, and sustainable development, was a thought-provoking experience for our Geography students. It brought their learning to life in real and authentic ways and made them consider the complexities of urban policy and development, as well as the importance of improving quality of life for all people.