Children help redesign a healthier, ecofriendly Newcastle


Young people need tools to help make our future cities cleaner, healthier and more livable.

Air pollution can have a damaging effect on children who are still growing.

Not only do kids breathe faster than adults do, but they are also closer to where the most polluting gases from vehicles accumulate.

As stakeholders of the city, young people are well versed in the climate crisis. Children want to see change, but lack the tools needed to improve the environment.

What if there was a better way to work with children to tackle the air pollution and climate change issues?

Solving the problem

Giving the right tools to children from a very young age enables them to engage and use their creative ideas to improve their environment. 

Open Lab designed the Sense Explorer toolkit for children aged 8 to 12 to use in workshops that teach them to engage with their environment and make the Ouseburn valley a nice place to live, work and play.   

Urban planners and politicians are often hesitant to work with children, but they shouldn’t be – we need to embrace their creativity and passion to take radical action on air pollution and climate change.

Sean Peacock, Urban Planner & Researcher at Open Lab

The children used their five senses and digital sensing tools to investigate air quality, noise pollution and traffic speeds. Created by the Sense Explorers team of Newcastle University, the Sensor Pi use low-cost sensors and a Raspberry Pi computer in a portable box. 

The workshops have been organised with Seven Stories and cover four areas: Explore, React, DesignandInfluence

During these sessions, children gathered data in the Ouseburn valley and analysed them. They reflected on how they could make the place a better environment and proposed ambitious ideas.  

Key outcomes

Involving the children has been a great opportunity to work with a different perspective of placemaking and shaping.  

Sense Explorers have hosted the Sensor Pi design online so that it is available for other groups to use for free.