Design education making a mark in Finnish primary schools – events attract more than 2,000 participants

Design education is intended to encourage children to “think like inventors” and provides them with the tools they will need to face the challenges of the future. A joint project by the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo and Design Museum Helsinki, which ran from 2015 until 2017, piloted a new design education syllabus, delivered through the Kids Design Academy after school clubs. Design is also being introduced into the wider Finnish comprehensive school curriculum.

Be inquisitive, define your problem, use your empathy, think big, build a prototype, test your prototype, test it again, develop it further, then launch it to the world. This is the sort of pathway that could be used as the basis for signage to help students navigate their way around school. Design is traditionally defined as the practice of determining the shape and functioning of an object but it can also be used in the context of non-material things like services, functionalities and digital systems.

Bold solutions to big problems

The participants at the Kids Design Academy media design club created a whole new set of signage and an entirely new visual identity for their own school. The result was a lot more colour and much more information about what happens around the school building. The exercise as a whole was an excellent demonstration of how invested children become in the school environment, when they are given the opportunity to use their ideas to shape and develop it further. In the latest Kids Design Academy session, titled #bebold, the children were invited to use design and spatial planning to find solutions to bullying. Bullying increasingly takes place in the social media realm, which is why the after-school club also acts as an online anti-bullying campaign.

“The children have developed such a brilliant understanding of what the design process is all about. They’ve really picked up on the importance of empathy and what it means in practice in terms of how our day-to-day environments impact on our well-being, for example. We’ve practised our problem solving skills through scenario-based play using a range of imaginary characters. We had both bullies and bullied kids as well as some bystanders. The children were then asked to find solutions to the problems they were facing and to generate ideas for how we can prevent bullying and stop it altogether.” explains Natalia Ritari, architect, designer and facilitator of the latest #bebold after school club.

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Picture: The team used liquorice pieces and dental sticks to build this magnificent structure. In the photo: Michael Grandy, Lumi Salo, Elsa Piacenza, Niilo Niininkuru, Julius Piacenza, Tomas Karhapää and Jalo Jokelainen. Photo: Laura Oja