The Good City

alt text

With more than two out of three people predicted to be living in urban areas by 2050, it is more important than ever that our towns and cities are good, thriving places to live. To make this a reality we need to make much more space for nature within our urban neighbourhoods. Nature makes up the life support systems of our planet and provides many physical and social benefits that humans need to thrive.

But while we need nature, nature also needs us. Habitat loss, pollution and climate change have created a global ecological crisis. By making more space for nature in our cities we can help solve these problems.

alt text

The Good City is a research project run by scientists at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Living Landscape initiative. Our aim is to fix the nature gap in urban areas by providing high quality data at local scales and empowering young people to advocate for better, future-adapted cities. From Spring 2021 we are inviting young people throughout Edinburgh secondary schools to become co-investigators in a scientific research project to assess the resilience of their own neighborhoods using their “route to school” as a sampling tool.

alt text

The Good City has been designed in such a way that it can be run in any city in the world. As a citizen-led approach it doesn’t rely on political decisions or detailed city adaptation plans. The Good City has the potential to connect young people across the world with each other via the global issues that they all face.

Frequently Asked Questions for Participating Schools

We would be delighted for your school to take part in The Good City Edinburgh. Read below for more information on the project and how it can benefit your school and contact RBGE project lead - Dr Emma Bush ( - to find out more.

What are the main research questions of The Good City?

1) How does access to nature vary among neighbourhoods within and between cities? 2) Do young people select encounters with nature on their routes to school? 3) Do young people recognise the benefits of nature in their neighbourhoods?

When will The Good City take place?

The Edinburgh survey will go live in Spring 2021 and schools can participate any time from now until the 17th May that best suits their timetable. Different classes within the same school can take part at different times. There will be a further opportunity to take part in the survey in Spring 2022.

What age group is The Good City targeted at?

Any secondary school year group (13-18 years) is welcome to take part in the survey. However, we request that schools try and incorporate multiple year groups to give a good representation of the student population.

How long does it take to complete The Good City?

If schools choose to participate in The Good City, we will ask them to direct students to a webpage where they will be led through an interactive online course introducing them to the themes of the project and its research aims (10-15 mins). Once they have completed this they will be invited to take part in the online mapping survey (10-15 mins). In total we expect participation in the project to take less than 30 minutes.

What resources are needed to take part in The Good City?

The online course and survey are desk-based and require individual access to a computer or tablet. It is possible to do the survey using phones, but students will find this more difficult. The main activity of the survey relies on students being able to draw a route on an online map and recall their experiences in their neighbourhood. Both the introductory course and survey could be done in class or as a homework task. If of interest, it should be possible (but not compulsory) to arrange a live video conference discussion between the class and the project-lead (Dr Emma Bush) either as an introduction or a follow-up to the survey.

How many students should take part?

It would be great if as many students as possible are tasked with participating in this project. However, we would like schools to aim for at least 100 students (3-5 classes). While participation is necessarily voluntary, we would like teachers to invite whole classes to participate (rather than nature groups or other interest groups) to gain as broad a representation of the student population as possible.

What about data protection? Will the data be anonymous?

RBGE has a duty to comply with data protection legislation and the organisation’s privacy policy can be accessed here: For this research project we have undertaken both a data protection impact assessment and an ethical review. We will not be asking for student names, addresses or any other contact details, meaning that the information we collect is unlikely to be identifiable. When we ask students to plot their route home from school, we will make it clear that they should stop their route wherever they feel comfortable and at least one street away from their home to disguise their home address. However, as we will be collecting a range of data on age range, gender, ethnic background, school, and neighborhood we will treat the raw data as if it were identifiable and store it securely within encrypted files with limited access. Only truly anonymized non-traceable data will be made publicly available.

What are the expected outcomes of The Good City? How will our school and community benefit?

The Good City provides participating schools with the opportunity to demonstrate a whole-school community-integrated commitment to Learning for Sustainability and to participate in innovative scientific research. Within two months of the survey being completed we will send out a tailored summary report to each participating school to feed into their Learning for Sustainability strategy. This report will include a one-page infographic to be shared with students and a written summary for senior management. The Good City Edinburgh will conclude in autumn 2022 with an opportunity for young people from participating schools to present the city-wide data to leaders of Edinburgh City Council and make recommendations to improve the resilience of the city through targeted nature-based interventions.

The Good City is well suited to contribute towards Learning for Sustainability at a whole-school level and delivers learning across all four contexts for local and global learning.

alt text

In addition, participating in the Good City contributes to Curriculum for Excellence Social Studies learning outcomes (mapping skills and human interaction with the environment) set in the wider context of global climate change and local climate adaptations. Plus, pupils will be introduced to the use of technology in science and climate research (see below for a list of specific experiences and outcomes).

Curriculum for Excellence Experiences and Outcomes (Es + Os)

Social studies - CfE Levels 2- 4 (S1-3)

Human impact on areas • Having explored my local area, I can present information on different places to live, work and relax and interesting places to visit. SOC 2-10a • I can develop my understanding of the interaction between humans and the environment by describing and assessing the impact of human activity on an area. SOC 4-10a • I can explain the development of the main features of an urban area in Scotland or elsewhere and can evaluate the implications for the society concerned. SOC 4-10b • I can carry out a geographical enquiry to assess the impact and possible outcomes of climate change on a selected region and can propose strategies to slow or reverse the impact. SOC 4-12b Mapping skills • To extend my mental map and sense of place, I can interpret information from different types of maps and am beginning to locate key features within Scotland, UK, Europe or the wider world. SOC 2-14a • I can use a range of maps and geographical information systems to gather, interpret and present conclusions and can locate a range of features within Scotland, UK, Europe and the wider world. SOC 3-14a • I can use specialised maps and geographical information systems to identify patterns of human activity and physical processes. SOC 4-14a

Sciences - CfE Levels 2- 4 (S1-3)

Biodiversity and interdependence • I can identify and classify examples of living things, past and present, to help me appreciate their diversity. I can relate physical and behavioural characteristics to their survival or extinction. SCN 2-01a • I understand how animal and plant species depend on each other and how living things are adapted for survival. I can predict the impact of population growth and natural hazards on biodiversity. SCN 4-01a • I can use my knowledge of the interactions and energy flow between plants and animals in ecosystems, food chains and webs. I have contributed to the design or conservation of a wildlife area. SCN 2-02a • Through carrying out practical activities and investigations, I can show how plants have benefited society. SCN 2-02b

Energy sources and sustainability • I can analyse how lifestyles can impact on the environment and Earth’s resources and can make suggestions about how to live in a more sustainable way. TCH 2-06a

Processes of the planet • I can explain some of the processes which contribute to climate change and discuss the possible impact of atmospheric change on the survival of living things. SCN 3-05b

Technologies - CfE Levels 2- 4 (S1-3)

Digital Literacy • I can extend and enhance my knowledge of digital technologies to collect, analyse ideas, relevant information and organise these in an appropriate way. TCH 2-01a • I can explore and use the features of a range of digital technologies, integrated software and online resources to determine the most appropriate to solve problems. TCH 3-01a • I can select and use digital technologies to access, select relevant information and solve real world problems. TCH 4-01a

alt text