Third-graders' dream city a nice place for adults, too

April 10, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

In Darren Berry's dream city, there would be parks -- lots of parks. There would be boat slips and markets and neighbors who are not afraid to leave their doors open or unlocked at night.

In Darren's dream city, there would be few police officers and no corner gatherings of sleepy-eyed young and middle-age men near his home in the Lexington Terrace public housing development in West Baltimore.

And the playgrounds would be glass- and litter-free in Darren's dream city. Most would even have working play equipment.

"There's too much killing. There wouldn't be no blacks killing blacks or anybody else," said Darren, 8, a third-grade student at Lexington Terrace Elementary School. "All of that would be real nice. Yeah, that's the way I would like for it to be."

Guided by architects and city planners, Darren and his classmates used thousands of plastic blocks to create an ideal city -- a place that's far different than their neighborhood.

Yesterday, they displayed their utopia in a classroom at the school, which sits in the shadows of looming public housing high-rises.

Through the project, the children strengthened their cooperative learning skills and were introduced to architecture and city planning concepts. It also gave them a chance to imagine and create their city, which they dubbed "Ebony & Ivory."

Rodney Moulden, a city planner, helped the students create their utopia. He noted that the city lacked a prison.

"We wanted to stay away from the prisons and negatives that they know of," said Mr. Moulden. "They also wanted something that was not just a block city, but a place where everybody can work."

Mr. Moulden said many of the students at Lexington Terrace Elementary have seldom traveled far from their West Baltimore homes, and their lives revolve around the troubled areas where they live.

"This gives them something to think about," Mr. Moulden said. "It's a long-range thing, but it's better than nothing."

In the students' ideal city, low- and mid-rise housing would be abundant and a shelter for the homeless would be prominently located. And a hospital would be named after Dr. Benjamin Carson, the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"Everyone would have a place to live and no one would have to watch out for people trying to break into other people's houses," said Quean na Booth, 8. "No one would get robbed or be afraid of getting robbed." Queanna, who lives in the Lexington Terrace high-rise, said she often doesn't feel safe in her neighborhood. Students fight with each other in school. Drugs and crime are a part of the world she sees daily.

But that would all change in her ideal world.

"There wouldn't be a lot of police because they wouldn't be any crime, that's for sure," she said. "Everyone would be nice and want to live here. There would be jobs for everyone, too."

However, Queanna and her most of her classmates are skeptical their ideal city will ever exist.

"It seems that people will never stop [criminal activities]," Queanna said.

"They're so used to doing the things that they've been doing."

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