What do high schoolers want in their small town? I asked, and they told me

When I visited a high school class in Forest County, Pennsylvania, the students told me what they want in their small town. It was a diverse list, but now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to think about it, there are definite clear themes. And we can use those themes to shape our towns. 

The over-arching theme is variety of experiences.

The answer is to embrace tiny experiences and temporary projects to keep things interesting. 

Let’s dig into that. 

These are world-wise high school students. They’re connected to and aware of the wider world outside their small town. They have experienced their small town, and they’re hungry for things that are new and different. 

They’ve eaten every place there is to eat in town, so it’s not surprising the kids talked about more restaurants, different restaurants and fast food that they don’t get here. When we talked about food trucks, they really got excited about bringing in some new food choices. When I mentioned an Asian fusion cuisine pop-up in another town, the kids lit up! Wow! That’s really different from what they get all the time. 

They’ve done all the usual hangout things. The boys in the class talked about starting a skate park or boxing ring. They aren’t skateboarders or boxers right now, but the idea of a place to hangout and do something new together appeals to them.  

The one that got me though was the request for more kids in town. They’ve known all their classmates since kindergarten. They just want to meet and experience some new people their age.  

The kids’ list is all about more to do, with an emphasis on their own ideas instead of adult ideas. But the real theme is variety. They’re older now, from a high school age perspective. They want to try new things. 

And really, the same is true of adults. We want variety, too. 

We’ve eaten all the places in town and gotten into ruts of eating the same places. Wouldn’t you love to try out Asian fusion cuisine at a pop-up? But if it was a full-time restaurant, you’d probably get tired of it, too.  

When we embrace tiny experiments and temporary projects, we add variety to our small town experiences. It doesn’t have to be permanent to make our lives richer. 

And the bonus is that tiny and temporary projects are a lot easier to do. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS – Want to flex your Idea Friendly thinking muscles? Read through these 100 greatest innovations of 2018 and just imagine!