The aim of this introductory workshop at La courtille middle school was to involve Sustainable Development students interested in ecology to explore their neighbourhood, identify places they go to regularly in Saint Denis, and have ideas about ecological improvements to their neighbourhood. The workshop helped us to understand the neighbourhood better, encouraged the students to have a critical lens on their environment; was a first look at the neighbourhood in an ecological way; and identified issues in the neighbourhood
From this session outputs were synthesised to create a picture of Saint Denis through the students eyes, enabling the following co-design workshop to build on the neighbourhood context and focus on the school site.
The pupils were from year 7, 8 and 9, hand had identified Sustainable Development as an interest. SD is an elected module, so the pupils already have an interest in sustainable practices. The session was facilitated by the La Courtille Sustainable Development teacher, aaa, and the CoNECT team.
Participatory Mapping in the Classroom
The workshop began with a Mapping exercise. The class split into 4 groups. Each group was given a pre-prepared printed A1 perspective map-drawing of the Saint Denis area, with the school site at the centre. The first exercise consisted of identifying the places that they go to locally, writing names for internal spaces on one colour post-it, and for the interior spaces on a second colour.
The second exercise consisted of identifying their most frequent journey, drawn with a coloured pen each, and specifying the kind of journey (by bus/on foot).
The students identified many local places that they frequent often - outside spaces include bus stops, public spaces, sports grounds, gardens, playgrounds and parks; internal spaces include other schools, eateries, cafes, sports halls, and religious spaces such as mosques.
Quickly we began to see the most popular quotidian routes were from home to school. If the students lived closeby, they were on foot. Further away, they were by bus. Most students live close by and travel to school on foot. There is a strong crossover of routes in proximity to the school; many students cut through the estate to get to the school gate.
Walkabout - Mapping ecological potential in the neighbourhood
The second part of the workshop focused on ecological opportunities, strengths and weaknesses in the neighbourhood.
First, we split the neighbourhood up into 4 similarly sized parts, so that each group would explore a different area. Each facilitator accompanied and worked with a group for this part of the workshop. Each group of 5 students were given an A3 sheet of the same map base as previously used. The aim was for the facilitator to take photographs of things (as directed by the pupils) that seemed like ecological processes, where there could be improvements made, opportunities for ecological intervention, or where there is a problem.
Each photo was located on the map and numbered using a pen.
This map combines all 4 groups’ photographs from the walkabout and categorises them into different types of observations:
Growing spaces (2)
Green spaces (16)
Waste management problem area (4)
Mineral spaces (2)
Opportunity space (7)
Space already in use (21)
The pupils identified a number of cultural spaces that they appreciate and use regularly such as the maison de quartier, and the ‘mediatheque’ (media library). There are also a number of green spaces and growing spaces that they enjoy such as the garden at the maison de quartier, Gally farm and the clos la fabrique. They identified squares and playgrounds that worked well, occasionally highlighting the need for more seating in these areas. They liked planted flowers and wooded areas.
Generally the pupils find waste management to be lacking in the area. Bins are often untidy and overflowing, and there are areas where rubbish is thrown and not picked up, including fly tipping.
They identified a number of opportunities for planting, growing food, public realm improvements such as seating and space to eat for example. They also identified a number of opportunities for composting. They also mentioned providing spaces for those in need.
The pupils were able to be critical of their neighbourhood and identify opportunities for ecological improvement. They also gave importance to social support, linking ecological practices to social issues of homelessness and food security. They were able to quickly have many ideas for projects to carry out in the neighbourhood.
The workshop was a one off with this group - as there were students from 3 different year groups, they do not normally work together.