Our Stories

Grade 2 Students Present Plans to Revitalize L’Enfant Plaza

December 20, 2023 by Elizabeth Zitelli (Faculty and Staff)

Second grade students stand proudly near the 3-D city models they’ve created from cardboard and paper and tell their families about their creations. Clad in bright orange construction vests they speak with authority about issues such as green space, recreation, and density. This is the DC City Planning Expo and Siyum, a culmination of months of integrated study that spans the subjects of history, geography, design, and even Judaic studies.

The essential question of this wide-ranging unit is:

How can second grade city planners apply their background knowledge from what they have learned during their studies all about the city of Washington, D.C., to design a new city plan for L’Enfant Plaza?

In true MILTON style, teachers began by taking students to see important sites nearby. Students participated in field trips to the National Mall, Botanic Gardens, L’Enfant Plaza, and the Building Museum.

They invited experts from our community to share their insights in person and via Zoom.  Parent Ben Tauber shared the history of how the city of DC was laid out and focused on the role of plants in city planning and beautification. Mr. Tauber then shared all about Lubber Run Park, a rooftop playground that he helped design and build. Second graders asked great questions about structural engineering, timing, and budgeting of the playground construction. City Planner and MILTON parent Deb Bilek conducted an interactive presentation on land use. 

Working in the Design Lab, students engaged in MILTON’s signature Design Thinking process. For the first step “Empathize” students asked: How can we improve L’Enfant Plaza to better serve the needs of the people who visit? Through their site visit they had made detailed notes about what they saw in the space, and began to imagine what was missing. One student noticed there was a fountain but no grass.

In Design Lab, students practiced implementing the design thinking process while completing a series of short city planning projects, including designing a new rooftop playground for Milton.

In the “Define” phasee, each student was placed in a department to consider particular needs of city residents. These included: 

  • The Department of Commerce
  • The Department of Education
  • The Department of Housing
  • The Department of Health

Each city team had a member from each department. Students worked together across departments to plan their vision for L’Enfant Plaza. The students created different iterations of their Blueprint before settling on a final design. 

In the “Prototype” phase, students worked to create models of the buildings they were proposing. 

For the phase of “Collaboration,” students worked together to decide the ideal placement of their buildings and stepped into a new role as the transportation department to design street signs and traffic flow. They modeled traffic flow using Ozobot robots. They also designed and built a park collaboratively.

To connect their learning to their values, each member was asked to consider how their department’s work contributed to the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). 

For the “Testing” phase, students toured each other’s cities and provided feedback. 


Then they were finally ready to present their creations to their proud parents and special guests, MPD School Resource Officer Chodak and Michelle Yan, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Education. 

They also wrote letters to Mayor Bowser encouraging her to review their suggestions and potentially adopt them for the redevelopment of L’Enfant Plaza. 

We are so proud of the hard work of our entire second grade team, teachers and students alike!