The Design Academy for Helsinki schools celebrates its 10th anniversary

Designer Linda Vanni with students in the yard
Designer Linda Vanni carried out the "Designing great surroundings" course for Aurinkolahti comprehensive school. Photo: Anni Koponen

In the Design Academy, a project coordinated by Ornamo and the Design Museum, professionals from the design industry visit Helsinki schools. Designers of products and services, interiors, textiles, fashion and jewellery have organised design courses and cooperated with teachers across all school levels. The Design Academy is celebrating its 10 years of activities by inviting schools to join the Design Challenge.

Architecture and design learning is based on creative problem-solving skills and methods promoting teamwork. Teaching based on the design process is particularly suited for phenomenon-based learning combining different subjects. The clear method gives room for experimentation, questioning, inventions and listening to other people’s ideas. In fact, empathy is a key tool in design learning.

Developing the school environment through design thinking

A project of observing and developing the school environment is a great way to teach natural sciences and mathematics, for example. Designer Laura Aalto-Setälä planned a design course for fifth-graders’ human biology classes at Kaisaniemi comprehensive school. The pupils started by observing any nterference in the classroom. The pupils found four major sources of interference: hunger, noise, glare and uncomfortable chairs.

By improving the functionality of the classroom through teamwork in the design process, the pupils learned about biology. The team assigned to address glare designed a movable shade around the fluorescent lamp, the uncomfortable chairs were developed for more diverse use, and the service design team came up with a surprising solution for noise prevention: allowing the pupils to use their headphones and listen to music while working on their assignments. After one week of testing the results, the teacher reported that the classroom had never been more quiet and decided to make the headphone solution a permanent policy.

Interior Designer Natalia Ritari’s #bebrave after-school club at Snellman primary school worked on developing fair rules for the school and finding a sense of achievement. The participants examined and developed the comfort and safety of the school environment and also created an anti-bullying fabric pattern for the Vimma clothing brand. A top model who was bullied as a child visited the club to tell her #bebrave story.

Architecture and design learning inspires interest in the immediate surroundings

The Design Academy is supported by the City of Helsinki and the courses are created by highly educated design professionals. They are developers and designers of the built-up environment, products and services. In addition to projects with children and young people, the designers educate their areas of expertise to comprehensive school teachers. The Development Centre Opinkirjo cooperated with the Design Academy to produce the Muotoilupakki website (currently in Finnish) and method cards to be used as design learning tools at schools. Designer Aino Kiviranta designed the logo and design process chart for the Design Academy.

Architecture and design learning differs from traditional ways of teaching art and crafts by focusing on observing, examining and developing existing solutions. Working with your hands and using new technology supports learning, transforms 2D into 3D and opens windows to a more environmental and human-friendly future.

“Service design is all about abstract ideas and conceptual thinking, and I thought it would be challenging to teach those things to primary school pupils. On the other hand, I knew teaching would give me more insight as I’d think about the nature of my profession as a designer and about how to communicate complicated concepts to children in a simple and illustrative, yet interesting way,” says designer Linda Vanni who carried out the Designing great surroundings course for Aurinkolahti comprehensive school.

Learn more about the recent design courses by Linda Vanni, Anna-Kaarina Heikkilä and Linda Ukkonen in the articles below.

Inviting schools to join the Design Challenge!

The Design Academy invites all schools to join the Design Challenge developed by Linda Vanni. In the challenge, pupils, students and teachers develop and improve the surroundings of their homes and schools. The Design Challenge is intended for all school levels and helps pupils and students learn about design and its methods.

Watch the video below, the English translation will be available soon! #designacademy #designchallenge

For more information on the Design Challenge for schools in Finnish, click here (in Finnish)

In the Design Academy, Ornamo is in charge of cooperation with designers and the Design Museum supports educational planning. The Design Academy is supported by the City of Helsinki.