Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SafeGrowth by pre-teens? Really?

Bus station murals in Auckland, New Zealand  - all photos by Fleur Knight

GUEST BLOG: Fleur Knight is a member of the International CPTED Association and is trained in SafeGrowth. She is a teacher at Murrays Bay School, Auckland, New Zealand where her role involves making learning as real as possible for students. Here she describes a project with teachers to integrate CPTED and Safe Growth into the teaching of 9-10 year olds for which she is gaining national attention.

The social sciences strand of the New Zealand school curriculum states that students are expected to explore how societies work so they themselves can participate and take action as critical, informed and responsible citizens.

While this was the stated goal of the policy, I experienced a deep frustration after teaching activity-based social science that resulted in no external change to neighbourhoods or internal values changes to students.

Pre-teens organize murals. Artist demonstrates skills.
How can we expect them to participate and take action as members of future neighbourhoods if they are not taught, and do not experience, how they can achieve these lofty aims in real life? Obviously there is a need to involve our youth in positive relationships with neighbourhoods.

In June 2014, following SafeGrowth training in Christchurch, I took the learning of students to a new level that involved them not only applying CPTED but implementing SafeGrowth and community development directly with residents to improve a local bus station.

Over the past months I worked with a teacher and students and carried out a Safety Audit of Sunnynook Bus Station using safety maps. We identified issues with access control and signage. Those later became recommendations for improvement including more Braille for the sight impaired and artworks to humanize the station.

Humanizing bus stations through colourful art
Students conducted surveys, CPTED reviews, and interviewed residents about the bus station. Interestingly the artworks idea had traction. Most people indicated they wanted some murals at the station to help make it more inviting and welcoming. A number of residents even indicated they would participate but they didn’t think they had painting skills.

To start the community-building process the students contacted Auckland Transport and a local community centre for help. They also solicited the help of local artists, including student artists at the school, to provide painting skills.

Using data collated from the community they developed artwork that represents changes in Sunnynook from the early 1900s to present day. They then organized a Painting In The Car Park day to activate the community, implement the mural painting and illustrate how SafeGrowth works in action.

The results were dramatic both for the community and the students! Over 30 people turned out to paint murals and transform the bus stop. Seeing the impact, the Auckland Council is now considering replicating this model in other bus stations in the city. Most importantly I learned that integrating real life SafeGrowth projects into teaching curricula is a much more effective way to teach youth how to be critical, informed and responsible citizens.

Students interview residents for project research