Here at Junior School Vlaskamp, one of the Primary campuses at The British School in The Netherlands, we are trying to encourage the whole school community to be more environmentally friendly. Lots of the initiatives we are currently running at school help to make the school more sustainable and teach the whole school community the importance of Environmental Integrity, which is one of the BSN’s Character Profiles.
- I want to improve the world in which I live
- I contribute to a sustainable environment
- I reflect on how my actions have an impact on our planet
At JSV, we have a student body that forms the Eco Council. It is made up of two students from each class in Years 3 – 6, one of which is an Eco Warrior and the other is an Eco Monitor. These children all come together with three staff members to form the Eco Council. They meet regularly to discuss the initiatives and prepare presentations ready to explain some of our projects to the whole school community.
The Eco Monitors help ensure their class is as environmentally conscious as possible. They make sure that the lights and any electrical devices are switched off when nobody is in the room. They ensure that paper is used on both sides before it is placed in the paper recycling box and they also help encourage children only to use one paper towel when drying their hands. The school is enrolled in a local recycling scheme, which responsibly recycles batteries and old pens such as whiteboard markers, biros and felt tip pens. All staff and students can place their old equipment in the storage box, ready to be sent to the recycling firm. The monitors help to ensure that this is being done in all their classes.
The Eco Warriors help to deliver a variety of environmental projects at school. They recently helped to set up our Green Waste recycling program, where biodegradable waste is collected from each class and placed in the green bin. This waste then gets taken to the local council, where it is turned into compost and reused in the local area. Before the project was launched, some students from a local university held a workshop for the Eco Warriors, teaching them about the composting process. All the initiatives in place help reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.
The Eco Warriors help to maintain the Forest School area. At the end of the last academic year, they planted Buddleia and Hibiscus bushes to attract butterflies and pollinators to our Forest School area. The plants were bought using the money that we were kindly given by COBIS for coming runner-up in the Eco Film Awards last year.
Green waste being placed in the container by a Year 1 student
Helping to make the willow fence in the Forest School
Planting Buddleia bushes to attract butterflies
New Initiatives to Support Sustainability
The Eco Monitors and Eco Warriors are now hard at work on a new project to help develop the JSV wildlife pond area. Mrs Loftus is Lead on this project that has been generously funded in part by the BSN Family Association. So far, they have cleared the pond of plants, drained it and prepared the area for a new liner. They have also planted some bulbs and moved wood clippings to the new bug area.
The students have big plans this term to improve upon the rich natural environment that they enjoy at JSV. They will build a bug hotel in the bug corner, add a new boardwalk around the pond’s edge, and even help design a new water feature for the pond.
All of this work in and around nature will provide fantastic inspiration for the school-wide art project that will focus on the environment.
Developing a Love of Nature Starts Early
We try to foster an active interest in the environment and a love of nature in our students from a young age. Students engage with our grounds team regularly and help them to collect leaves and twigs and take them to the compost area. In the Foundation Stage exploration zone, younger children are often raking up the leaves with our grounds staff.
The Eco Council also loves to collect litter during playtime and take it in turns to use the litter pickers! Our grounds staff run a gardening club where the children learn how to plant, maintain and harvest their own vegetables in the Quiet Garden. Our pond area is currently being redesigned so that the children can have better access to the site. Children will be liaising with staff to design and implement different zones within the pond area in order to provide a range of habitats for a variety of animal species. All these activities really instil the importance of environmental integrity.
All children from F1 to Year 2 have a regular Forest School session each week, where they have access to Forest School provision and learn how to look after their natural surroundings. There is also a Forest School club that is run every term for children in KS1 and KS2.
Reducing Waste and Repurposing Creatively
Here at JSV, we try to reuse and repurpose things as much as possible. Our parent community regularly organises second-hand uniform sales; they also have access to forums where they can buy and sell children’s second-hand clothing and goods. The staff hold clothes swapping events, which again helps decrease the amount of waste going to landfills. In class, we try to reuse materials as much as possible. In the Foundation Stage, for example, we always utilise the cut-offs from the guillotine for mark marking, and junk modelling (you can see junk modelling in action in this short video) is a fine example of pupils using items that are no longer needed to create a piece of art! In Year 5, the children make papier mache dogs out of plastic bottles and newspapers that would otherwise be thrown away.
Reducing our [Carbon] Footprint on Two Wheels!
One of the main benefits of living in the Netherlands is the fact that we can cycle everywhere due to the flat Dutch terrain. The infrastructure in the Netherlands is built around cyclists, so there are many bicycle lanes, making it a safe means of transportation. Cycling is often quicker and easier than driving a car, so many of our children, parents and staff come to school by bike. This is having a huge positive impact on the environment.
Preparing Students to Help Make a Better World
It is our role as educators to teach children to love and protect the world around them. With climate change being at the forefront of the news at the moment, we need to foster a love of nature in our young children now so that they will care for our world in the future.
The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) continues in its second week in Glasgow. Find out more about the summit here and get in touch with us on how your school is promoting sustainability in the community.
Nicki has worked at the BSN for six years and is currently working at JSV as a Foundation Stage Two Class teacher. Prior to moving to the Netherlands, she worked in the UK and Ecuador. She is passionate about the environment and enjoys teaching children in her care the importance of looking after the world around them. She loves nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles and loves enjoying the great outdoors with her family.