Denmark has the third best higher education system in the world.  This curiosity to learn more about the world and to push their knowledge begins early, in the home. Walls lined-up with books, encourage children to learn and grow.

Fostering curiosity


For much of its history, Denmark has been pretty homogeneous and in 2019, 90% the population had Danish ancestry. With immigrant communities growing, Danish policy makers have made many controversial decisions, such as planning to relocate “unwanted” immigrants to an isolated island and red-lining low-income immigrant areas as “ghettos”. Areas with at least 1,000 residents can be marked as ghetto when two of the following descriptions are met: having at least 50% immigrants from non-Western countries, at least 40% unemployment, and at least 2.7% criminal convictions. This label generates stigma against people living in these areas, furthering stereotypes. With one of Copenhagen’s most iconic and most photographed parks located next to the diverse neighborhood of Norrebro, Superkilen Park, the perception of what constitutes a healthy and connected community can change.

Beyond “Ghettos”


North High School (NHS) is part of the Minneapolis Public School System and its student body includes mostly African Americans. Ninety percent of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch (Minneapolis Public Schools Fact Sheet, 2011). Identified as a ‘dropout factory,’ partly because its senior class had 60 percent or fewer of the students who entered as freshmen (Zuckerbrod, 2007), NHS was phased to close by 2014 (Xiong, 2010). This news was met with emotional resistance from both students and members of the community, who pushed back to keep NHS open (Weber, 2010). Book and science exhibits that line the halls and classrooms instill in students a sense of achievement and aspirations for the future (Strickland & Hadjiyanni, 2013).

North High School

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Project Sweetie Pie uses gardens and urban farming as devices for teaching and helping youth enjoy learning and explore diverse career paths. The organization serves as an example of supporting equality, conserving local recourses, as well as enhancing North Minneapolis’ economic prospects. Founder Michael Chaney discusses the importance of providing opportunities for youth development: “It isn’t just dollars, it’s the young people and the people who will become the leaders of tomorrow. How can we hope to be sustainable if we’re not educating those people?…. And gardens could bring in corporate fellows and their families and their children. And bring in neighborhood residents and their families and their children. It gives us a direction and goal in the community to really focus our creativity.”

Project Sweetie Pie

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Photo credit: Project Sweetie Pie

The Danish government’s commitment to grow the design industry and attract international investors translated to reforming design education to ensure that students were learning materials that meet industry standards and expectations along with investments in corporate design activities. In this central plaza in Copenhagen, an exhibit by the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation showcased how Danish design contributes to the UN Sustainable Development goals.

Design as a Form of Economic Development


A Hanover Research report, “School fencing: Benefits and disadvantages,” uses Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) methodology to outline the benefits and disadvantages of fencing. On the one hand, it can provide safety, access control, natural surveillance, and establish the school’s perimeter while at the same time, it can limit surveillance, attract graffiti and other vandalism, restrict access so much that students take more hazardous routes to and from school, and create the feeling of ‘imprisonment’ for students. This school in Copenhagen uses a low concrete bench to demarcate the school’s boundaries, creating a border around the school while allowing students to sit and rest, cultivating an inviting and welcoming environment.

Defining the School Perimeter


Open plan offices have been found to trigger withdrawal from face-to-face interaction and the collaborative spirit they were intended to cultivate. Instead, BloxHub, the hub for Nordic sustainable urbanization, provides flexibility in sitting arrangements for different types of work and engagement. For example, long, multi-person tables give employees the choice to sit alone or sit with others while more closed-off spaces encourage deep-thinking conversations and focused-type work.

Sitting Arrangements in the Workplace


In Copenhagen in 2019, around 25% of the population have immigrant backgrounds, which is much higher than the approximate 10% of national average. The Trampoline House offers job training and services that help members of the immigrant communities transition into the community and the workplace, including hair cuts. They also host other activities such as lectures, exhibitions, meetings, dinners, film screenings, fundraising, legal counseling, and medical assistance along with cooking classes.

Trampoline House


In 2014, Denmark topped the list of OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) that invested the most of their wealth in education (7.9%) — followed by Iceland (7.7%) and South Korea (7.6%). As of 2012, 92% of Danish youths were expected to complete their secondary education, compared to the 84% of the OECD average. After graduating from high school, it is common for Danes to take time off their academic career to work and save money and/or travel, prior to choosing whether to attend a university or a technical school. The city’s parks can transform into math teaching spaces, making learning a fun and engaging activity.

Promoting education


LaunchPad is a space in downtown Bemidji that provides “entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups, and professionals an opportunity to co-work, collaborate, network, and learn in an innovative, yet fun, environment.” According to the Greater Bemidji 2017 Annual Report, since 2007, employment has grown 14.6%, which exceeds that of other regional centers. As individuals in communities with high levels of social trust are more likely to be self-employed (Kwon, Heflin, & Ruef, 2013), opportunities for residents to innovate, strengthen the local economy and support the community. Explains Mayor Rita Albrecht, “They have one week [where] someone will come who’s been a successful young entrepreneur and talk about their business….an educational program where they’ll bring in someone to talk about communications and how to do better on social media…, and another week they’ll have someone where you can pitch an idea.”


Bemidji, Minnesota

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