EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In February 2019, East Brunswick High School Social Studies teacher Marc Mondry was approached by Michael Lachs, a member of the East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency, about incorporating a new program called “Urban Land Institute” into Mondry’s IPLE (Institute for Political and Legal Education) class. Fitting in with Mondrys’ futuristic teaching style, Mondry was able to bring Urban Land Institute (ULI) to East Brunswick High School after months of training, trips to DC, and countless information sessions with ULI to learn as much as he could. More so, EBHS was the first high school in New Jersey to begin ULI. Across the high school, ULI has had a 98% retention rate and shown great success. This year, Marc Mondry is being awarded the Educator of the Year for his work incorporating real world simulations into a classroom.
Urban Land Institute is a land-use stimulation that, over the course of a month, puts college and high school level students into a real world situation where they are tasked with designing a city. Throughout this month, guest speakers and local experts came in to class to advise students on their working designs. Within each class, there were groups of 5, consisting of a financial advisor, marketing advisor, community outreach chairman, and other roles to ensure the city would meet all standards and be a feasible, profitable town. At the end of the month, students presented to East Brunswick residents including Mayor Cohen, town council members, and other involved citizens, most of whom were part fof the East Brunswick administration.
First and foremost, ULI teaches students about land use. More importantly, though, Urban Land Institute teaches students “presentation skills” and “cooperation among group members, who most likely will have differing opinions,'' according to Mondry. As a student who participated in ULI, I can attest to the sense of “realness” this project encompassed. ULI was able to show students “what really happens”, Mike Lachs said. Specifically, the current redevelopment in East Brunswick has been a hot topic for debate, most of which is misunderstood by students and residents. ULI showed the logistical, and nearly impossible means of pleasing everyone.
According to Mondry, the biggest surprise was that “everyone actually had fun doing the project”. Sure, there were really frustrating days, or days we had to read on land-use laws and comprehend very difficult topics. But from it, a group of roughly fifty sophomores, juniors, and seniors, gained first-hand experience at governmental proceedings, that actually occur! Mondry hopes that in the future, ULI can expand within EBHS so that more students can have the experience.