The plus class of elementary school East
"I enjoyed thinking about our school. You get to have a say in what happens later on and be creative," says Tusem, a pupil in the plus class. She and her classmates Abel and Ruben proudly talk about their own elementary school, which they think is already pretty ideal. An important part of this is the environment. We were able to experience this ourselves during a tour of the school. Ruben, Tusem and Abel showed us all the classrooms and told us about all the animals, such as the bearded dragon and guinea pigs Luki and Jerry. When you walk into the schoolyard of East Elementary School you are surrounded by greenery. They have a butterfly garden, pond, compost heap, forest, climbing tree, tree house and a vegetable garden. "In the pond there are real frogs and newts," says Abel. According to Angelique Cleiren, teacher of the Plus Class, the children learn a lot from this: "In the vegetable garden the children get to work themselves. This way they learn where vegetables come from and what process is needed to get them to the supermarket."
Despite the fact that the students are already very satisfied with their school, together they came up with five ideas to improve their school: solar panels, an elevator, more Learn-to-play-Ability equipment on the square, more flowers and an underground waste sorting center. "I thought solar panels were a good idea," Tusem explains, "because they get energy from the sun so that's very economical."
Ruben came up with the waste sorting center, in order to easily separate the waste they produce at school: "If you throw away glass, for example, it will be sorted automatically under the ground." This idea also highlights the importance of a green environment. "It's especially under the ground so plants don't suffer from that, because they need soil to grow. I don't use electricity, everything is done with electricity so it's environmentally friendly." Abel wanted more flowers and plants, "I think that is very important because plants provide oxygen and we are a nature school so that fits in perfectly." As a nature school, they are heavily involved in environmental and nature education to develop sustainable attitudes in students. "We are a nature school and therefore we try to integrate sustainability in different layers in our school. This includes, for example, the amount of plants and animals but also the play-learning devices. The idea was to develop devices where you playfully learn the tables for example.", says Angelique.
The elementary school has plans to renovate their building to better suit what they want in terms of space, air quality, layout and sustainability. Angelique would like to take the ideas that the children came up with into consideration: "We would love to have solar panels and that is definitely an ambition. The waste sorting system is unfortunately still something for the further future, that has to be invented first."
Secondary School The Nassau
Lieke, Oakley and Yara started their ideal school with a mindmap, this was the basis for what their school needed to be. Cosiness is an important part of it: "We want to create more atmosphere with plants, more windows and different corners. Then you go to school with more pleasure than if you are taught in a boring gray building," says Lieke. They want to extend the use of green and natural materials to the area around the school so that students go outside more often during breaks.
In order to maintain a good atmosphere, a number of theme weeks are organized at their current school, says Pallas Linssen, teacher of handicrafts: "We have several weeks with the theme of, for example, bullying or gender. That way the students are busy with these social themes throughout the year. I think the level of acceptance is fairly high here. I think it's great to see that these students are so involved with this."
Less homework and tests were answers that came up often throughout the competition, Lieke, Oakley and Yara wrote down as well. "All in all, it's just pretty much," Yara explains, "we have to bike to school for an hour. If you then have to do homework, study for tests, play sports and do fun things with friends, there is little time left for yourself." By having more electives, they want to take some of that pressure off. "If the subjects are more in line with your interests, the stress might go down and the pleasure in learning might go up. The diversity of subjects also helps you discover what you want to do later on," says Oakley.
Pallas had several classes think about their ideal school and was particularly surprised by the elaborate concepts that some students came up with: "Many groups came up with a very elaborate train of thought, not only in terms of design but also in content. I deliberately left them very free with this assignment so they could think about their ideal school completely independently."
There were also prizes attached to this contest. Lieke, Oakley and Yara received a gift voucher from the webshop CeCe (a website focused on sustainable clothing). The class of Abel, Ruben and Tusem got to visit the Naturalis and get a guest lesson from ecologist Sterrin Smalbrugge.