Co-created ideas and regreening the schoolyard – Basisschool Aventurijn, the Netherlands

When I enter the school building of the Aventurijn (near Utrecht) hall I’m welcomed by the energetic teacher of group 8. Richard makes jokes in the class, kids respect him, feel the freedom to ask questions and accept each other’s feedback. I like it. During the lessons I receive a lot of questions and everyone feels the importance of the discussed themes such as climate change and sustainable food. This makes them lively interact within their group during the co-creation exercise. So much that time is a bit too short to let them address and exchange all ideas. More flexible time management next time. 

When I leave the class after lesson one, I feel the kids can do nice projects on their own. Which they do. After four weeks, during lesson five, I’m amazed. The groups present their results in lots of different ways: interactive presentations with quizzes and experiments, 3D posters, a self-made video animation about plastic pollution, a vlog while cleaning up the schoolyard (including bloopers), a self-composed rap song about sustainable energy, tips and tricks about water re-use to share with the younger kids of group 7. Richard and I laugh a lot, share tips and tops with each group and engage them in going on with their actions. Which they do.

The team which planned to regreen the schoolyard sends a nice e-mail to the municipality of Houten, which is followed by a fast and positive reaction. Within two weeks, four trees are planted in the schoolyard and plans are made to plant more trees, install insect hotels and flower beds during 2021. I’ve got energized by the kids and I’m glad that the Nemesis lessons and co-creation enhanced the kids’ confidence in themselves and in their ability to change things together. 


Experimenting with project-based learning in a primary school – Obs De Schakel, the Netherlands

Finally, after two years of lessons, I manage to enter a very diverse school in a low-income neighbourhood. All kids in this class (school de Schakel, near Utrecht) are born here but their parents come from all continents. This immediately connects us as I am myself an ex-pat/migrant in the Netherlands. I take the chance to ask them how they feel about the country of their family. Being asked makes them feel proud. Then the question comes back: Andrea, what do you know about Egypt? Even though I know a lot from books or news, I know nothing about how it is to live there. Still a lot of things to learn. 

This is the very first school where I let kids practice with co-creation. With relief I notice that the discussions are lively within each group, everyone is genuinely interested in the topics. Still, they struggle. This working together in teams, this self-reflection, this link between global goals and local actions is new not only for them but also for the teacher, who implicitly apologizes with me for the according-to-her low level of the class. During project time, after the first lesson, she simplifies all the project tasks so that all groups focus on making a nice poster about the mission they have chosen and present it to the rest of the class during the last lesson four weeks later. 

I’m quite happy about this struggle. First, I found many small things to improve in our material and approach. Second, the lessons and the project-based, co-creative approach increased the kids’ awareness about the effect of their actions on the planet and introduced them a new way to work together. Their perception of self-efficacy increased, both for the kids and for the teacher about the kids.