This paper investigates how middle school children can be engaged in community and environmental design in order to create a more nurturing and equitable living place in their public housing neighborhood. Several outcomes are worth noting, although the conclusions cannot be generalized from this small sample of self-selected middle school children. The children’s summaries of their experience, presented to the NC State College of Design, demonstrated learning outcomes including social and environmental awareness, evidence of environmental competence and empowerment to truthfully analyze the present situation as a first step toward change. The children’s strongest needs from a designed environment were expressed in the three simulation studies as 1) satisfaction of physical needs by actualizing affordances, and 2) development of personal identity through psychological ownership of the designed environment.