Second graders predict the future

Do you remember what you thought the future would be like as a kid? Maybe you predicted the usual flying cars and robots (which, spoiler, are still popular subjects) but unless you were a young writer and kept a journal, you probably don’t remember the specifics. Children are known for their imagination and curiosity, so who better to ask and document what the future holds for us all.

This February, second graders at Markham Elementary School described their vision for Mt. Lebanon’s future. In 2034, when they are seniors in high school, Mt. Lebanon Magazine writers will reconnect with them to see how their predictions and ideas panned out.

Coincidentally, the second graders at Markham have a social studies unit dedicated to the history of Mt. Lebanon. Teachers Erin Ciotti and Brittany Cardillo partnered with the Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation to teach students about important community stories, landmarks and historical events. The unit culminates in a field trip to Uptown, where docents from the foundation lead a scavenger hunt based on architectural details of the buildings. They visit the municipal building, the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon and the public safety center.

Second grade teacher Erin Ciotti’s class is vocal about climate change and protecting the environment. They don’t want to build new, large houses in Mt. Lebanon if it means losing trees, green space and wildlife.
Many students in Brittany Cardillo’s class envision living in Lebo well beyond childhood. They say it’s safe, easy to navigate, close to family and friends, with plenty of activities and places to visit. So why move anywhere else?

Now, thoroughly prepared with knowledge of the past and present, the students were asked to write an essay answering the following question: What do you think Mt. Lebanon will be like in 10 years? After completing the assignment, the students participated in group interviews to talk about their ideas. This is what they had to say:

New stores, hoverboards and robots are coming soon

These students say Mt. Lebanon is in for a whole lot of business development. More than one boy said there will be a Wegmans, which seemed rather specific, but they were adamant that we’re worse off without one. Noah Montalva Lopez said reptile stores will be very popular, especially ones that have axolotls. A Mario Kart shop will sell go-karts to ride around town—which makes sense, given that the parks now have racetracks on the perimeter. And if you’re not into driving go-karts, you can always stop at the new Dave & Buster’s to play games and eat. When you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, head over to the new Cold Stone Creamery, Dairy Queen, IHOP, donut store or the several Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shops scattered throughout Mt. Lebanon.

Portrait of a boy and his artwork
Jasper Mueller says there could be elevators in every home, hoverboards and hovercars on the road, and robots (both human-like and animal-like) in Mt. Lebanon.

Plus, the way you get from place to place will change dramatically. Hoverboards, flying cars, floating scooters, ultra-fast e-bikes and jetpacks will be the dominant modes of transportation. All cars will be electric “so we can save the environment from global warming,” said Lucas Beck. Mia Brasacchio predicts the sidewalks will be replaced with conveyor belts, so pedestrians can move without having to expend any energy. Similarly, “the road will move the cars” according to Lily Taggert and Jane Swager. If the self-moving road doesn’t take away the need to drive, self-driving cars will. Maverick Brooks says autonomous vehicles will be popular in Mt. Lebanon, which will be great for people with disabilities who would then be able to drive a car, even if they can’t operate it manually.

On the topic of streets, the roads in Mt. Lebanon will be even safer. Emilia Chirumbolo, who might have a future career in transportation planning, says “First, garbage trucks will be faster and safer. Second, the street signs will be higher, so drivers can see better. And the roads will have a lot more street bumpers, so people will drive slower and safer. Lastly, the roads will be painted and paved better, so the roads will not be bumpy.” Her classmates think there will be more bike lanes (and hoverboard lanes). They also hope the new stores will be built closer to homes, so people can walk to their destinations more often.

Technology will be even more advanced in 10 years. Everyone will have fancy watches with facial recognition scanners. High-tech security devices that scan your face, hands and fingerprints will be on every street. There will be more automatic lights indoors and super-durable glass that is almost impossible to break. AI and robots will help us with everyday tasks. There might even be robot animals.

Portrait of a girl and her artwork
Jane Swager wants a rollercoaster to take kids to school, plus areas to go camping, in the future Mt. Lebanon.

Each of these improvements will increase Mt. Lebanon’s popularity and population. The second graders believe there will be more people living in the community, which means more schools will need to be built. And that doesn’t mean just K-12 schools. Robert Moyer says Mt. Lebanon will have a college in 2034 and its mascot will be the Mt. Lebanon Rams.

Here are a few other interesting features the future Mt. Lebanon will have: Nolan Chen thinks that books will project a video preview to tell you what they’re about (kind of like Netflix previews). Jameson Regala said there will be a big field next to the graveyard for people to have parties and celebrate the anniversary of their loved ones’ deaths. And Darsh Srivastava hopes dogs will have collars that translate barking into full English sentences.

Thinking outside the bubble

After spending just 30 minutes with the second graders, it’s clear that these 7- and 8-year-olds are just as socially conscious as they are imaginative. When asked what they think houses will look like 10 years from now, the kids agreed that Mt. Lebanon shouldn’t build any large new houses. Some students think there will be more brick apartment buildings. Wes Compton actually said that apartments provide “maximum housing for minimum space.” He even provided a very perceptive comparison: “it’s why bees make and live in honeycombs.”

His comment led other students to talk about the lack of housing that nearby communities are facing. Lola Phillips said if there are more houses in Mt. Lebanon in 10 years, she hopes it’ll be for homeless people to have a place to live. Several others said that homelessness is upsetting, that no one should have to live in tents and that Mt. Lebanon could be a place that helps people escape homelessness in the future.

Portrait of a girl with her artwork
Lily Taggert has a wide variety of predictions. She sees talking animals, a new holiday, roads that move cars, and a female president in the future.

Turning an eye to the environment, Nelson Shih said he doesn’t think Mt. Lebanon should build big houses, because it’s bad for the environment and we need to protect the planet from climate change. Other students agreed, adding that new home construction would lead to cutting down trees, which would hurt the planet and take away homes from wildlife.

Still, some of the kids said it would be cool if houses in 10 years could look more futuristic. A few students think they will be made of steel, titanium, crystal and glass. Others said homes might have rollercoasters attached to them, which they could ride to and from school.

Some things stay the same

While the kids are excited about the new things to come, there is plenty in Mt. Lebanon that they hope doesn’t change. They said they like going to The Galleria on weekends, the parks after school and the library during summer break. Of course, some kids have dreams of one day moving away from Mt. Lebanon to a variety of places, from China and Morocco to California and Minnesota. Sidenote: When asked “Would anyone want to live somewhere that’s really different than it is here?” the first response was “Yes, somewhere like Ohio!” which was met with equal laughter and concern.

Yet, many students said they see themselves living in Mt. Lebanon when they grow up, because Mt. Lebanon is safe, easy to get around and has lots to do, but also because it’s where their friends and families are and where they’ve already made so many great memories. Hopefully, in 10 years when they are seniors getting ready to graduate from Mt. Lebanon High School, they’ll be happy with the way their predictions and community has turned out.   

Photography by John Schisler