This article examines some of the new and imaginative ideas that Sidewalk Labs is proposing for its development of a 12-acre district on Toronto’s waterfront.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

World issues, environmental studies, urban studies, social studies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are some of these forward-thinking ideas?
  • How would they affect quality of life?
  • How would our privacy be protected?

New Terminology:

Environment, urbanism, modular

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The pace of change in our lives continues to increase as we address the various challenges of modern life. Driverless cars, social media and other technological developments are changing the way we live and interact. The rapidity of change is so great that it is difficult for many to keep up, let alone assess the value and implications of these changes. Sidewalk Labs is proposing a community which changes the way we live and purports to improve the quality of our lives. Students need to be aware of the implications of some of the changes they are witnessing and to decide for themselves whether or not these changes are actually for the better. This lesson will have the students examine some of the proposals from Sidewalk Labs and decide whether they would like to live in this new environment and the degree to which it would affect their quality of life.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by putting the students in pairs and asking them to define the term “environment”.
  • Allow them a few moments to come up with their definition and then have them present them to the class.
  • From the list see if there is anything that approximates a work-life balance as an example of the type of environment in which they would like to live.
  • At this point, share with them that Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., has proposed a radical community that would be developed by its unit, Sidewalk Labs, located on Toronto’s waterfront.
  • As the article is rather lengthy, provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them plenty of time to read it.
  • When they have finished reading the article, ask the students to indicate whether or not they would like to live and work in this community.
  • Divide the class into two groups – those who would like to be involved with this development and those who would not.
  • Give the groups time to discuss and prepare the reasons for their choice.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each side of the issue present their rationale and then hold an open discussion during which the students can comment upon and debate the ideas presented.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will:

  • Be able to articulate some of the innovative ideas being suggested by Sidewalk Labs
  • Offer an opinion as to whether or not these developments present an appealing prospect of a quality life.

Confirming Activity:

  • Have the students complete a written assignment in which they explain the term “quality of life” and outline those things which they believe are important and necessary for an excellent quality of life.