Students used maths to influence skate park design and location

Middle school students worked collaboratively with the Sunshine Coast Council to influence the location and design of the Nambour Youth Activity Space.

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA – During 2012, a group of middle years students worked collaboratively with the Sunshine Coast Council to consult with local young people, influencing the location and design of the Nambour Youth Activity Space.

Identified for a gifted and talented project, the twenty-seven students from years five to nine, attended Nambour State School and Nambour State High School. The group, calling themselves Project Beyond Limits (PBL), approached the Sunshine Coast Council, advocating for a youth space that was inclusive and multicultural, was a safe place for teens and young people, and was family friendly, with barbecues, shade and street-scaping.

The students learned the council had allocated capital works funding for the Nambour Youth Activity Space. The council requested the PBL Team contribute to the public consultation on the space location and design elements.

Two possible locations had been identified. The location close to the community business centre was preferred by the students as the high frequency of passing adult pedestrians made it a safe public area. However, the business leaders were concerned about losing parking areas and attracting undesirable behaviour in the locale. Hence, the students identified the importance of planning the design concepts, collecting and presenting data, and communicating to the Council how this location could make students feel safe and welcome. Their project report needed to justify the feasibility of their ideas.

Meeting weekly for about four hours, half in school time and half after school, the group worked regularly with a teacher, a university researcher and mathematics educator, Youth Officers, a third year design student and the Youth Activity Space (YAS) Project Manager from the Council.

The students were concerned they had no input into any of the youth consultation processes the council had previously conducted. They decided to survey students in their schools believing this would better represent the views of ‘everyday’ young people.

The students designed, trialled and administered survey instruments; applied statistical concepts, utilised Excel spreadsheets to input raw data, created and analysed graphs and presented the findings.

To ensure maximum participation, students spoke on year level assemblies, or to different classes, then handed out and collected surveys, resulting in 836 completed surveys.

During the course of the project, the students also needed to access the Australian Bureau of Statistics website to collect, collate and analyse data sets to verify the school population as representative of young people living in the region.

The students’ completed report and findings were presented to the Council. The minutes of the council meeting reflect the heated debate between the young people’s proposition and the Business Alliance. The Council project manager believed the students’ report swayed the Council to accept the youth’s preferred location.  The critical aspects of their report were the number of people surveyed and the outcomes of the survey, for and against the relocation.

Dr Margaret Marshman, a senior lecturer in mathematics and physics education at University of Sunshine Coast wrote, Middle Years Students Influencing Local Policy, for a MERGA conference, providing an excellent detailed description of the project’s development and students’ mathematics learning and application.

More Information:

Margaret Marshman at University of the Sunshine Coast

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