Lenka Tsikoliya

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survey by the mental maps

Finding out the relation between the perception of the school environment and the leisure time activities by the mental map analysis (mind maps were provided by the students of two chosen local schools).


Survey is realized as a part of cooperation with students and teachers of the chosen schools and has a character of the analysis of the structures, which follow the leisure time activities of the students with their environment. In the chosen localities they map problematic moments and dangers, which are brought by the current conditions of the public spaces and parks, used by the students. Specific methodology of the survey is based in the locality, chosen by the educational institution and the persons, who are included in the process. The participants of the research were 3. year students of the Secondary Art School of Vaclav Hollar: 3 girls and 8 boys of the age 17–19 years, and a teacher MgA Zdenek Ruffer.


By the mental map survey I find out how students apprehend their environment. This form of socially pedagogical survey is effective while it works with the participants’ subconscious and not with his verbal expression. Of particular importance is how the student feels in the public space and how the student apprehends it.


The output of the interpretative phenomenological analysis of the mental maps is the semantic and synthetic mental maps, supplemented by a commentary.


The semantic mental map shows subjective opinions on the situation in the locality of the Hollarovo square between Zizkov, Strasnice and Vinohrady. Participating students expressed their perceptions, thoughts and opinions on the area around Central Art School of Vaclav Hollar via passwords and verbal descriptions.


It is clear from the semantic map that especially significant for the students is the way from school to a transport communication, or a tram stop. Students mainly pay attention to the commercial activities concentrated along roads (such as “fitness center”, “Chinese restaurant”, “pizza”, “Food Peggy”, etc..). Generally the communication gives rather cramped, bustling impression (e.g. passwords “noise” and “sidewalk with cars”) and is taken purely functionally (“way to the tram”).


In contrast, the square in front of the school has for the students far more diverse character. It is generally regarded as an area for recreation and communication (“bench”, “smoking spot”, “trees”). It is obvious that students have a personal relationship to the square. This is reflected in both the informal names for the individual elements of the square (“chill “, “little forest”, “chatters”) as well as in personal memories linked to places (“benches full of people, principally to avoid us,” “potential hugging tree can be frightening “,” pam pa dam pa dam pa dam “). Though northeastern part of the square is less frequently visited and evaluated rather negatively, students find in it certain hidden charm and potential (“ it is nice “,” little forest “,” chill “).


Synthetic mental map graphically represents subjective perceptions, opinions and descriptions of students on situation around Hollar square between Zizkov, Strasnice and Vinohrady. Thick and thin lines show the more and the less frequented paths of students around the Secondary Art School of Vaclav Hollar. Important elements in this area, such as trees, cars, street furniture, buildings, roads, etc, are highlighted graphically by the students.


The mental map shows that pupils’ attention is concentrated on the road between the school building and tram stop. Another important point for students is a building of Radio Free Europe, an important democratic institution in the area.


Road to the north of the square seems to be a significant barrier to the students as they have not described any element north of the road, with the exception of the above mentioned radio building.


At the square itself their attention is concentrated on the central and southwestern parts. This is mainly due to the way to the tram stop, which passes right through this part of the square.


The perceptions and views of the students, introduced in the semantic and synthetic mental maps can form one of the bases for the future development plans of the site and its leisure activities. The students’ engagement in such planning can be a benefit.


According to the architect Ivan Vavřík, specific proposal for improvement is the revitalization of the inner space. As a part of this revitalization, greenery should be maintained to the greatest extent possible, the interior space can form a walkable space with small areas of paving and with small-scale architectural objects (benches, bins, drinking fountains, etc..). The free surface of the inner subspace could serve as a versatile outdoor gallery.


Generally it can be assumed that the practical benefits for the school are the original elements in public space that could benefit students. Unconventional playground conceived as an artificial hill made ​​from a soft elastic surface for leisure activities fulfills this vision. Another idea is to open an outdoor exposition with urban furniture or water elements such as a fountain. The urban furniture with multimedia elements can be incorporated to the terraced terrain. A garden with a variety of plants, trees and shrubs can serve as a community meeting place as well as a ground for the study of botany.


The processed data offer two possible alternatives for Hollarovo Square. These are the construction of a gazebo or a foundation of a municipal garden for planting vegetables. The location of the open gazebo is based firstly on the description of the students that the northeastern part of the square is a busy place, and, secondly, that trees and plants create a suitable and cozy atmosphere for contemplation and exhibiting works of art. Element such as a gazebo could revive this place. Another possibility is a municipal garden, a public place for growing food. The rationale of the proposal is to unify the square, which is currently used for activities of students, and offer it to all residents of the area. In The plants cultivation may be a part of the school curriculum, but also a hobby for the locals. It can expand in the form of vegetable markets, in this case the proximity of the communication is convenient.


The description of the specifics of the survey methodology in Zizkovo Namesti is as follows: the educational institution, which participated in the survey was Secondary Art School Zizkovo Namesti, the students participation consisted of the first year students, specifically 7 girls and 2 boys aged between 15–17 years, the survey was done under the supervision of the ak. soch. Milan Martinik. The survey took place during the modeling lesson between 8:00 and 10:30 am.


On the basis of the interpretative phenomenological analysis a semantic and a synthetic mental map were created, both supported by a commentary.


Semantic mental map captures subjective perceptions, opinions and descriptions of the students of the Secondary Art School Zizkovo Namesti.


The rambling nature of students’ interests are obvious when one looks on the map. Passwords with which students describe or comment on individual points are distributed not only in the area immediately in front of the school, but also to the north and to the south of it.


The area east of the school is characterized by not so diverse daily activities (“I spend here every morning from Monday to Friday,” “bowling”). In contrast, the character of the square west of the school is a mixture of different activities (“playground for children”, “field where you always have a local”, “here we took pictures”, “bench for the brunch”, “path”). The students’ relationship to the square is a very close and personal one (“here I always touch the tree leaves are”, “tree, where we took pictures”, “park bench where we were sitting, when it started raining”). An interesting phenomenon is the way around the square. This path is not conceived as a purely instrumental way to the bus stop, but as a recreational path (“path on which I walk with my friend,” “street, where you walk with a friend”). This path can have very interesting potential for a development in terms of leisure activities in the area.


The area outside the square, especially on the north and south of the school is conceived primarily as one with a commercial purpose. The parterre of the surrounding streets is dominated by shops and restaurants (“stationery”, “Vietnamese shop”, “albert”, “street market”). Even though students have some level of a personal relationship to the surrounding streets and translate them to their opinions and commentaries (“there was a scaffolding”, “catching a tram”, “Here I meet daily, a woman, who takes her children to school”, “brother’s friend was mugged here” , “ugly Italian pastry shop “).


Synthetic mental map graphically displays s subjective perceptions, opinions and descriptions of the students of the Secondary Art School Zizkovo Namesti. Thick and thin lines show the more and the less frequented paths of students around the school. Graphics highlight important elements in this area, such as trees, cars, street furniture, buildings, roads, etc..


The importance of the north-south path in front of the school building is evident on the synthetic map. This path shows two main directions from which the students come to school – from the metro station and Ondříčkova street or from the Olšanská street and a tram stop.


Another interesting path goes around the Zizkovo Namesti. It is conceived rather recreationally, which is indicated by its low frequency. The amount of green islands, paths and plants indicate the diversity of the square. However, some students reflect the space negatively. In the wider area, pupils mainly pay attention to important buildings from the functional point of view, such as stores north from the school or the paper shop to the south of it.


Given the conditions of the space and its functional use, new green areas could be recommended, as this would lead to greater visual permeability of space, especially in its southern part. Its composition could also be supplemented. In terms of installation of art objects it would benefit expand the space with artistic interventions by the school. The school could, in the spirit of its mission, significantly and logically improve the space quality by installing different on the square. The space could even used as a kind of an outdoor public studio, which would belong to the school.


Another proposal for improvement and development of leisure activities of students is a circular trail. There are several points of interetst according to the students: a place to take pictures, a resting space, trees, associated with different experiences. It can be proposed to deploy along paths other points of interest, furniture with multimedia features and access to Wi-Fi, exhibition elements, benches, exercise and game elements, and thus to establish the phenomenon of recreational walks around the square with educational overtones.