The pupils of Suutarinkylä comprehensive school planning renewals to their educational environment. Photo: Maija Astikainen

Schoolchildren use play to develop safe school paths

In the first months of the school year, the pupils of Suutarinkylä comprehensive school have planned renewals to their own educational environment. The aim of the project is to make routes to school safer so that more children and young people would choose to walk or cycle to school on a daily basis.

Developed by the pupils themselves, a multimedia game is the starting point for redesigning the school environment. As part of the process, students in 6th to 8th grades analyzed the areas surrounding the school in small groups and considered needs for changes, improvements or for something completely new. Based on their observations, the pupils brainstormed solutions.

9th grade pupils built upon the efforts of their peers, continuing with a workshop in which they selected which interventions to adopt. The next stage is to invite students in 1st to 6th grades to play the game in groups. In this way, the gamewill effectively find out which kind of solutions are preferred by schoolchildren of different grades.

“I’m happy that our school is participating in a project in which children, young people and families can concretely influence the development of their residential area and thus their town well-being. This is a significant experience of community participation for the school’s pupils, and I hope that it will encourage them to be active citizens in the future”, says Paula Järnefelt, principal of Suutarinkylä comprehensive school.

The pupils of Suutarinkylä comprehensive school planning renewals to their educational environment. Photo: Maija Astikainen

Change work based on an international project

Last year, Suutarinkylä comprehensive school was elected as a pilot school for the City of Helsinki’s project with the Partnership for Healthy Cities — a global network of 70 cities supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the public health organization Vital Strategies. The cities in the network have committed to the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and diabetes, by influencing lifestyles and environments. In its own project, Helsinki wishes to promote the health and welfare of children and young people by making their way to school safer, e.g. by improving the conditions of pedestrian and cycling traffic in the schools’ surroundings.

“Immobility is an increasing global challenge which can be addressed by making small everyday choices. Helsinki wishes to restore physical mobility as a natural part of people’s everyday life and encourage younger generations to move and live their daily life actively. The project gives us more insight on how to motivate people to walk and cycle, and an example of how development measures concerning the immediate environment support the mobility of children and young people”, says Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.

Ideas surfaced through the game at Suutarinkylä will be utilized in expert-driven urban planning in the school’s immediate environment; the ideas will be transformed into physical solutions to increase the attraction and safety of active mobilty in the area. These solutions will be implemented in the summer of 2021 and will be ready by the beginning of the school year in autumn 2021.

Partnership for Healthy Cities web site