‘Pocket Forest’ Climate Challenge – Earth Day – Mentoring Youth in Slovenia

Earlier this year, Analogue to Digital our BIDs Belgium related programme, was approached by the European funded project of the ‘DoIT Challenge’. As we have a focus on both the creative and digital aspect with ‘STEAM’ and social impact aspect for youth. Sharing the project we had contributed with collaborating and mentoring youth from Slovenia with their ‘Pocket Forest’ project. An inspiring initiative with 3 youth from Slovenia representing their ‘Breathtaking Group’.

The mentoring method and plan was mutually agreed and included both email and the main weekly video calls. Feedback during the week when necessary to the local mentor was important. Discussing on weekly basis with the children to assess would aspects of their ideas could be further developed in order to participate in the ‘DoIT challenge’ competition, whereby other children from all over Europe would be entering the ‘competition’ with their respective projects.

The ‘Breathtaking Team’ had produced their descriptive / brief:

Name of Group: Breathtaking Team

Age: 10-13


We have tackled the problem of overpoluted areas. We found that a lot of people are living in extremely unhealthy conditions and we hoped to create a simple, yet innovative and most of all practical solution.

We have first outlined what we wanted the machine to do in the first place. So we decided to go with a toxic gas detection system and an alarm system that were linked. Than we added the gas mask to keep you safe from the toxic gasses. We still need to finish and also include design part.

Breathtaking Team

Along with initial photographs below and above attached to descriptive above (photos by Kernikova archive).

We participated in the numerous video calls over the last months, with the local Mentor / Teacher Eva Pondrk and Petra Vanic from Rampa Lab, Kersnikova. Introduced via the DoIT Challenge and Viola de Vecchi. Eva would translate between English and Slovak each week starting from Feb until April. Pre lockdown and Covid 19 times, the children would gather together and video call from the one location.  The project introducing me to 3 inspiring school children Ajda Velkavrh, Maks Pavsek and Samo Medic. They were working on a project initially named the ‘Sensitive Jacket’. (show pic below). With the purpose to have a portable device on a the jacket that could measure air quality. An already smart project that incorporated the societal challenge of air quality by these three children.

The mentoring aspect suggested and agreed upon, would include various topics that would further develop the project from  descriptive text and initial images supplied.  Topic from the branding, marketing, visual design and identity, also working on understanding the critical and design thinking skills. With understanding the collaborative process with working as a team together.  Explaining the design process from concept development, design development through to the completion. Emphasising the critical thinking throughout the pilot of testing. Conveying throughout the importance of ’empathy’ with the user and the human centric approach. Giving thought to the business aspect to think about the what the possibilities for the mobile air quality device could be? Could this be placed on clothing only? Perhaps it could be fixed on a bicycle or scooter or a wheelchair? Overall working with the ‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘business’ aspect.

Further ideas for developing this with thoughts on how the project could interact with the public and public space post Covid-19 and lockdowns being possibilities leading to the final sessions of project and mentoring were discussed. Suggestions of how the jacket could be on a mannequin placed in a public space wearing the ‘Pocket Forest’ jacket with the air quality measurement device were further options. The Breathtaking Team would each conduct a survey/questionnaire for the passing public. Ideas of how the group could ‘test’ the product while cycling around a park or asking friends/family to do the same and gathering the all important feedback. Thinking also about the price level the product could be positioned at, if considered to be a local enterprise and entrepreneurship collective project between the group.

Each week we focussed on a one of the topics with further developing the storytelling and narrative of their project. For example with experimenting with logo designs where each one of the three would come up with a design and narrative, then collectively coming together to agree on the chosen logo. Working together on also developing the overall look of the leaflet and brochure, with each child contributing to the design. Therefore, not deciding on only one design but collating all the finished designs.

Overall this project was a positive experience for us all. Engaging and further developing a project that creates a positive impact, teaching the children about the all important critical thinking skills, collaboration and team work, mixing the ‘analogue and digital’ with the creativity and digital skills, all whilst tackling a global societal challenge, with a little international collaboration along the way.

This project is also shared within the ‘Placemaking X’ Earth Day challenge. A very apt project for our parent association of BIDs Belgium to share for Earth Day. With permission from the children in Slovenia to share this on a global platform, is only a positive encouragement with all the hard work and perseverance for them all.

A pleasure to work with Ajda Velkavrh, Maks Pavsek and Samo Medic. With thanks to Eva Pondrk for her patience in translating and collaboration on this. Ada, Maks and Samo, who would initially gather together at Rampa Lab on a weekly basis and until the recent Covid period of lockdown struck, then each one video calling  in from their home to here in Brussels to discuss the final steps.  Indeed we would love for this project to live on also.

If you are interested to find out more about the project please check out the links to the PDF’s Pocket forest LETAK (2) Pocket Forest BROSURA (1) and don’t hesitate to contact us about this via rsp@bids-belgium.com

Feedback from Eva Pondrk:

During the project, the participants actively and critically thought about how, in what way and to whom they could help. There were many ideas, but they were able to come together into one – a jacket that will help people living in polluted areas. We went from sketch to circuit, and also thought about portability of the product to reach as wide an audience as possible. The group of three acted very homogeneously and together made decisions regarding advertising and marketing, such as the logo image and accompanying text. After the logo was made, a great idea came up: to change the name from ‘Sensitive jacket’ to ‘Pocket Forest’, since the circuit is portable and can easily be put in your pocket. When creating brochures and leaflets, they had complete freedom for creativity and their ideas, so they made multiple versions and they all look great. In addition to all this, they added a personal note (what the project means to them) and they also learned how to use some digital tools (when making logos, brochures and leaflets, and a sample of a process). I think everyone is happy with everything they have achieved and I hope Pocket Forest lives on.

This article was originally shared on our related programme of Analogue to Digital. 

Written By: Rozina Spinnoy

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