Child in the City Conference, Congress Centre De Hoelen, Rotterdam 2008
The Question of Feeling at Home?Designing for Lifestyle Change with Young People. Andrea Wheeler, B.A. (Hons.), Dip.Arch., M.Phil, Ph.D., ESRC Early Careers Interdisciplinary Research Fellow, The University of Nottingham, Institute of Architecture/and School of Education. (ESRC Project (RES-152-27-0001): How Can We Design Schools As Better Learning Spaces and To Encourage Sustainable Behaviour? Co-Design Methodologies and Sustainable Communities.)
What do I mean by ‘feeling at home’, or‘feeling more at home’ in school? Why isthe question significant for architectsdesigning sustainable schools?
It is important because it is one that can be asked to children, that they candiscuss, and for adults it raises the question of how we do or can we relateto childrens’ world-views.Furthermore, discussions with young people around this theme can raisethe need to:[a] create better relationships within the school, to the community of theschool and local environment and suggest the requirement for more socialspaces;[b] create/respond to a wider environmental question for a better, non-exploitative relationship to the world and others.For architects it may present an important opportunity to explore how co-created architectures (in the broadest sense) could begin to address someof the intentions raised by policy makers and the creators of the UK BuildingSchools for the Future programme to transform learning and embedsustainability into children’s experience.
Schools as transitional spaces … but from what to what? Schools as second homes? Schools as shop windows (creating a connection to the community) Schools as ‘malls’, ‘streets’ and ‘market places’ Schools as ‘call centres’ or mills or factories Schools as farms and gardens Schools as villages
Designing New Schools and the Building Schools for the Future programme2004Tony Blair, at the start of the programme, proposed: ‘Sustainable development will not just be a subject inthe classroom: it will be in its bricks and mortar and the way the school uses and even generates its ownpower. Our students won’t just be told about sustainable development, they will see and work within it: aliving, learning place in which to explore what a sustainable lifestyle means’.1] Blair, 2004 PM Speech on Climate Change 14th September 2004, Archive No. 10 Downing Street,London, http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page6333.asp (accessed 06 May 2008)2007The more recent Children’s Plan: Building Brighter Futures, published in December 2007 by the Departmentfor Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), even states an ambition for all new school buildings to be zerocarbon by 2016.
The problem of pro-environmental lifestyle change, encouraging sustainable behaviour, and ofsustainable citizenship is not simply about individual choice.
We need radical lifestyle changes and neither educators norarchitects are providing ‘models’ or pedagogies that can support sustainable behaviours.
So what do children think? What do they think sustainable lifestyles are? What do they understand from teachers, fromculture and from the media? What do they think their schools will be like? And how do they see their relationship with the world and others in the future?
The workshopsI carried out workshops with young people aged 10-14/15 years old (Years 6-10) and some sixth-formers. I asked them about their experiences of school. I asked them a broad set of questions, aboutschool buildings, the school day, food, sport, how they travelled to school, playtime, play areas,hobbies, time out of school, their local environment, their friends and I listened when stories emerged– stories they wanted to tell me about good and bad behaviours, good and bad spaces, stories aboutadult behaviours and the conflicts they feel. The stories that most interested were those thatconstituted a sort of ‘event’ in the workshop and tended to be emotionally charged, (but there was alsoenthusiasm in design, and in design solutions discovered). I asked them to design, both separatelyand together- and was often asked to help and negotiate competing ideas in group exercises (I hadbeen introduced more often that not as the architect by children’s teachers). In each school I visited I set out to carry out 4 workshops with 4-6 students over a 4 week period, of between 1-2 hours each. Not all the students turned up every week, not all the groups were interested in the project, some decided not to attend weeks 3 and 4 and others were positive and enthusiastic and wanted to continue past the four weeks. Some groups wanted to talk more than they wanted to design and some wanted to design and not answer my questions. Sixth formers tended to be keen to discuss, 14 year olds tended to be suspicious, concerned with what others in the group thought, judged others in the group and wanted to know whether my research would really achieve anything (backing this up with their own stories).
1. “Global Warming Panic” DIALOGUE 1 V1: Has anyone seen that movie? The day after tomorrow?The media portrayal of V2: Yesenvironmental change loomed V1: Some people that that is going to happen, the day after tomorrow.large, the young peoples’ V3: Oh is that the one where the earth gets flooded? Yes,stories expressed a real the world all gets flooded and stuff like that.problem of how do we get V4: I gave all my clothes to the Tsunami when that happened.young people to behave V3: What do you wear then?responsibly towards a broader V2: I don’t know what’s going to happen to the world, who knows what’s going to really happen. Whether we’reand future other whose world going to get finished off by flooding, whether it’s going to fly into the Sun, whether we’re all going to die due towe cannot know and where our global warming.action has no immediate or V3: We’ve got a few years left.apparent effect? V2: Whether the Magma’s going to come out and flood the world with Magma. Who knows whether someone will create a Zombie virus and bring Zombies, dead people back to life. Who knows if aliens don’t exist and they might destroy the earth. I’m just coming up with theories about what might happen to the earth. I’m thinking be might implode.
2. “Is it our responsibility?” DIALOGUE 2 AW: What do you think it would take to make people behave more sustainably?Whilst young people felt V1: There’s a lot of rubbish on the field, more bins around theconfused by media back for the school… […] V2: Supermarkets are saying to people [to recycle], but theyportrayals of the dangers of put drinks in packets and wrappers […]environmental change and V3: On some packing it says you can recycle it, but someglobal warming they also people just chuck it on the floor […] V2: Because one some games, computer games, there’s likequestioned me on whose plastic and you’ve got to separate it […] they should makeresponsibility it was. Should an easier way to recycle.I really be trying to change V3: It’s not just like the public getting it wrong because the Government aren’t really doing much about it […] andtheir and others they are sending it to India!behaviours? AW: Yeah, I saw that TV programme too. V2: Everyone is just worrying about the credit crunch, the credit crunch at the moment. V3: It might be about the public, but it is the Government as well.
3. “It costs more to beenvironmentally friendly doesn’t it?”
6. “Children’s agency and lifestyle change. No one will listen anyway…”
7. “Good spaces and bad spaces, good and bad behaviours…”
8. “Sexual difference and world- views of young people?”
What does this mean for building sustainable schools?If sustainable development is to be encouraged honestly and effectively, young peoplewill have to enter into a discussion of community, relation, social cohesion and all thepolitical and philosophical complexities this entails.Furthermore, young people will have to reconcile the need for reduced consumptionwith the consumerist norms of their peers – which is certainly a challenge for theteaching profession. Exploring the question of living and dwelling – of feeling at home- with young people presents a way to explore these issues and a way for architects torespond. We need some very different ways of both teaching and designing in the21st century if we are to address the social and environmental problems that climatechange will bring and important issues are being ignored: we may need to change thestructures, institutions and processes that govern how we live our lives, and theinequalities we experience in our society. We need pedagogies of connection.