Lund's schoolyards will be more equal and inclusive this fall

Circus stools, ping-pong and a 'rogue outdoor gym' - these are some of the new activities that students in Lund can try when they return from their summer vacation. The new activities are part of the Equalizer research project, a collaboration between FOJAB, Nyréns, Lund Municipality, Lund University and Malmö University. The aim is to encourage more physical activity and enjoyment of movement on school playgrounds.

Research shows that the proportion of young people who are physically active is decreasing. Girls in upper secondary school are the least active, but gender differences can be seen even further down the age scale, according to sports researcher and cultural geographer Karin Book from Malmö University, who is part of Equalizer. Also involved in the project is ethnologist and site researcher Elisabeth Högdahl from Lund University, who highlights how different norms create invisible rules that determine who has the right to the site and how it should be used.

- Against this background, we want to explore with children and young people how we can reverse this negative movement trend by questioning norms. It's about creating greater participation, better public health and equal access to spaces in the city," says Åsa Samuelsson, architect at FOJAB and one of the initiators of Equalizer.

Two years ago, the first stage of the Vinnova-funded Equalizer project was completed. The focus then was on making Malmö's activity areas more equal and inclusive. Stage two is currently underway in Lund, where the focus is instead on schoolyards. Together with students and teachers from Östratornskolan and Fäladsgården in Lund, we have developed new types of activities that challenge norms about how schoolyards should be used and by whom. This also creates greater participation and equality.

- It is well known among educators that learning is positively affected by children moving around. This project also helps to stimulate pupils with different physical conditions to play and move," says Mia Honeth (L), Chair of the Children and Schools Committee in Lund Municipality.

Through methods such as norm disruption and workshops, Equalizer has worked with students to identify barriers, find creative solutions in the form of activities and discuss topics such as norms, community and exclusion,

- We have developed a three-step Equalizer model where we identify barriers, find creative solutions and test prototypes. The goal is to change behaviours and normalize a new approach through additions and supporting measures," says Emma Pihl, planning architect at FOJAB and project manager for Equalizer.

Some of the activities are now being inaugurated and tested in full scale with prototypes in school playgrounds. These could be tools that twist a regular activity to attract new users, activities that challenge and reward new ways of moving, or on-the-go activities when breaks feel short. The prototypes will be moved to Brunnshög in northern Lund later this fall and become part of an activity area open to all Lund residents.

- Lund Municipality works continuously on how to work with more inclusive and gender-equal spaces. We want to create inspired and safe places that invite movement and meetings between people. Through this project, we can learn how to make both schoolyards and other activity areas as good as possible, not least when a new district is being built," says Eva Dalman, project manager at Brunnshög in Lund.

About Equalizer
Equalizer is a Vinnova-funded research project within the call for norm-critical innovation. It is a collaborative project between the architectural firms FOJAB and Nyréns, Lund Municipality, Lund University and Malmö University where theory has been combined with method development and practical application on a full scale. Equalizer step 1 was carried out in collaboration with the City of Malmö. The goal of the project is to disrupt place-based norms to create equal and inclusive environments and surfaces that support physical activity. We have developed an Equalizer model with three steps where we identify obstacles, find creative solutions and test prototypes. The goal is to change behaviours and to normalize a new approach to how and by whom places can be used, through complementary and supportive measures. Participation and co-creation are central to Equalizer. The aim of the project is to create simple and easy-to-use tools to disrupt place-based norms and, based on this, to create physical changes to make it easier for more groups and individuals to take place and become active in public space. These tools can then be used in other places by those who want to help create inclusion when places are built and changed. The method is not only interesting from a practical perspective but has also attracted interest in the research community.