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Child participation in climate adaptation

Published on: June 21, 2023

Involving children in designing their own neighbourhood

Climate changes in the form of heat, drought and flooding are becoming increasingly frequent. We want the local neighbourhood to be safe as well as enjoyable for everyone throughout the year. Involving children in redesigning their neighbourhood is important because their perspectives and wishes differ from those of adults.

Children learn about climate adaptive solutions

The municipality of Middelburg in the Netherlands planned to renovate a building with social housing. People of varying ages from different countries live here and the population is highly transient. The renovation provided a good opportunity to also address the design of the street and the local area. The aim was to create a climate-proof, green area that was pleasant to the inhabitants and that also met the needs and wishes of children.

Sweco’s assignment was to implement a comprehensive participation plan that involved the neighbourhood’s children. The municipality’s primary schools comprised an important arena for dialog in this regard.

In the schools, Sweco educated children about climate change and how it can impact a residential neighbourhood as well as how to design a street to manage heatwaves, flooding and drought. Specific questions and activities supported the children as they thought about what climate change adaptation could look like on their street and in their neighbourhood.

It was great to see that children at young ages are already so involved with their neighbourhood. By making use of a creative approach and teaching the children about a healthy living environment, they came up with various great ideas for their own street. –  Thijs Weststrate, Project Leader at Sweco.

What do children see?

The children walked through the neighbourhood together with Sweco’s consultants and talked. What makes you happy? What don’t you like? Based on these insights, the children started to create their own design for their street.

Sweco’s creative and personal approach has meant that primary schoolchildren learned about healthy living environments. Above all, they were involved and contributed to developing their own neighbourhood, which was a great success, says Stefan Scheeve, Project Manager at the municipality of Deurne.

This project was conducted in a neighbourhood with many adults who did not speak Dutch. With the lessons Sweco held with the children we also raised awareness with their parents. The idea was that these kids talked about the project at home with their parents, so the non-native adults would get a better understanding of the project.

When I was in a Teams call with the neighbourhood’s adult residents, a child was sitting with his parent. When he saw our plans, he immediately said “I don’t need.” A good example of where the needs of adults differ from those of children. When you design the outdoor areas of a neighbourhood, you are designing them for all residents, including the children. Win-win! –  Irene van der Tol, Landscape Designer at Sweco

Social sustainability was a key factor and goal in the project. Thanks to the participation, people felt more connected with their living area and each other. Furthermore the municipality developed good and sustainable relationship with their inhabitants.