Karoliina Hurmerinta, Mia Kaurila, and Jonna Rajavuori sat down to talk about the buddy class activities. Sustainable development manager Helena Kyrki also participated in the discussion.
08 august 2023 | Location: Espoo
Sustainability building sustainability

The sustainable development SPARCS project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Together with companies, research organisations, and citizens, the project seeks innovative regional development solutions. As part of the project, pupils in upper comprehensive school have become more knowledgeable about urban development and sustainable development through buddy class activities led by the City of Espoo and Citycon Oyj. 

Three-year project  

The buddy class activities lasted throughout the upper comprehensive school period with participating classes from Espoonlahti and Maininki schools. During the project, the young people found out about many topics related to energy positiivty, circular economy, and urban development. City of Espoo project coordinator Mia Kaurila says that the meetings that were organised four times per year were part of bringing the city’s sustainable way of life to practice. 

For example, we have played a climate change game with the pupils, organised Lego workshops where they can envision and build their dream city, and visited City Center Lippulaiva and the Reuse Centre,’ she says. 

Lessons for life 

A total of approximately 40 young people participated actively in the buddy class activities, even though the topics of the long-term project were not always among the most intriguing from the perspective of young people. 

Obviously, interest varied depending on the topic of the meeting. However, upper comprehensive school pupils can be quite critical, and a lesson with a bunch of slides might not have the teenagers as excited as visits to companies or other events outside the school, for example,’ agree Kaurila and the class supervisor for the buddy class in Maininki school, Jonna Rajavuori. 

The class chosen to participate from our school is a perfect choice in the sense that the pupils are also active in their free time, participating in various organisations, for example. This way, the pupils felt that the opportunity to participate in a project like this and to make a difference through it is really important,’ Rajavuori adds. 

Rajavuori also feels that the experiences gained through the project are useful for school work. 

The various themes of sustainable development are an integral part of the curriculum for comprehensive education, and the SPARCS project serves this purpose excellently. I reminded my pupils that they should utilise what they have learned through the project in various school assignments, but also consider how the themes discussed at school can be implemented in practice,’ she points out. 

Lippulaiva is part of everyday life 

Citycon Oyj also participated in the buddy class activities, particularly with its new City Center Lippulaiva, which is one of the development platforms for sustainable solutions within the SPARCS project. The pupils participated in the further development of Lippulaiva’s website and visited the City Centre building site when it was under construction, for example. Shopping centre manager Karoliina Hurmerinta is pleased with the cooperation: 

Shopping centres no longer serve only as places to run errands, but their varying services make them an integral part of the everyday life of people. This is why we prefer to use the term ‘city centres’, which have many kinds of services, like a library, and where people can spend their time in varying ways. City centres form a strong foundation for social life, particularly for young people, and we are particularly interested in their views,’ Hurmerinta notes. 

In general, young people are the most demanding users of city space. They utilise public transport or bikes to get around, and they may not have their own places to go to. Often, young people meet each other in public places like libraries or city centres,’ Kaurila adds. 

An opportunity to make a difference 

Young people have had the opportunity to voice their wishes regarding the hangout areas and services of the centre. We introduced more benches and charging points for mobile devices, for example,’ Hurmerinta says. She also wants to emphasise that tangible cooperation with young people as well as other citizens is important for Lippulaiva. In addition to encouraging young people to participate, we have also lowered the threshold for applying for jobs, for example. Many people may even find their first job here,’ she says. 

Tools for operating with young people 

What did we gain from the buddy class activities? While the project is continuing until next year, new classes can no longer be brought to the project. 

We will conceptualise the results of the project and aim to spread the good news to other units within the city. Participation and, in particular, encouraging young people to participate is a theme which runs across the sectors of the City of Espoo, and I hope this will make one more good practice for its implementation,’ Mia Kaurila notes. All of the project partners also agree that having their voice heard is important for young people. 

We have aimed to have enlightened young citizens in Espoo who can consider their agency and possibilities within sustainable development to be valuable,’ Kaurila notes.