Seventh- to ninth-graders of Vanttilan koulu and their visitors from Iceland and Denmark familiarised themselves with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals in mid-November. (Photo: Ville Taajamaa)
In mid-November, the City of Espoo’s sustainable development team held a workshop for the seventh- to ninth-graders of Vanttilan koulu and their visitors from Iceland and Denmark. More than 40 pupils and teachers took part in the workshop.
At first, the participants familiarised themselves with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on the 2030 Agenda. Later, they were divided into international groups to discuss the significance of the SDGs to themselves and the environment in which they live. The groups were given the task of creating fictional characters whose behaviour was improved in line with the selected SDGs.
In addition to demographic factors such as age, gender and socioeconomic status, the groups created an entire living environment for the imaginary person: whether the person lives in a city or in the countryside, what their hobbies and dreams are, what their consumption habits are like and how they promote sustainable development. At the end of the workshop, the groups presented their work to everybody else in English.
It was clear that young people are creative and good at communicating with each other and to other people in a foreign language. In addition to climate and eco-anxiety, they have plenty of dreams and concrete ideas for sustainable development and the future.
The characters that the groups created were young and slightly older women and men, both rural residents and city dwellers and everything in between. All of them faced challenges but also opportunities. Generally speaking, the pupils highlighted the environmental aspect of sustainable development, and most groups approached the issue from a very practical point of view.
Their ideas included shorter showers, locally grown food, reduced energy consumption, use of public transport, cycling and shared housing. They also paid attention to empathy and helping others. The aspects of sustainable development related to economic issues and well-being are familiar to some young people, but some still need time to grasp them.
From the perspective of the City of Espoo and sustainable development, the workshop taught that young people are creative, international and well-informed, in Espoo and other Nordic countries. Secondly, their ideas and activities focus on the environmental aspects of sustainable development.
Based on the survey conducted among pupils in grades 7–9 during the workshop:
- About 10% find environmental challenges difficult and feel that they do not know how they could be solved.
- About 20% feel that the challenges are difficult but believe that some solutions will probably be found.
- About 70% are certain or fairly certain that, in spite of the difficulty of the challenges, solutions will be found.
In other words, there are many challenges to tackle and a lot of work to be done, but most young people are confident that solutions will be found.
Ville Taajamaa, Project Manager for SDG work in Espoo, Sustainable Development