This paper investigates how middle school children can be engaged to participate in community and environmental design in order to create a more nurturing and equitable living place in their public housing neighborhood. The two researchers conducted an instrumental case study researching a Raleigh public housing on a quid pro quo basis. The main research questions were:ß How do children use and perceive their living environment in public housing?ß What environmental factors contribute to nurturing childhood in public housing?ß How could design play a role in providing environmental affordances that dialectically support healthy child development?A ten-week after school workshop series involving the middle school population was designed, with inter-institutional support. This fitted into the program schedule prepared by Community Learning Partners for children enrolled with the community center of the housing project. In order to come up with design solutions for the neighborhood, an action research format operationalized by different methods—cognitive mapping, sociograms, field photography, questionnaire survey, public speaking, design programming, map making, 3D modeling and simulation—were used to answer the three research questions. The project culminated in a public presentation at the College of Design at which the eight students summarized their thoughts, hopes, and recommendations through individual power point presentations, which demonstrated their sophisticated skills in visual presentation. From this performance it was clear that children found certain methods more useful than others in representing their environmental preferences. They valued the 3-D modeling exercise and the simulated role-play within the modeled environment over the other exercises. Several outcomes are worth noting, although the conclusions cannot be generalized as the small population middle school children were self-selected. Clearly the benefits to the younger participants as indicated by their final presentation—an individual summary of the series—were social and environmental awareness, evidence of environmental competence and empowerment to truthfully analyze the present situation as a first step toward change. The design recommendations were closely linked to the concept of social justice, to psychological ownership through more functional choices and freedom to personalize their place. In an environment where children have no control over the conditions of their physical home, the fieldwork gave them experience in thinking that their preferences could lead to the creation of a more nurturing environment.