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How we encourage sustainability at Junior School Vlaskamp
  • Environment
  • Schools

Written by Nicki Johnson, Foundation Stage Teacher JSV, The British School in the Netherlands

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. 

At JSV, we have a student body who form 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 3 staff members to form the Eco Council. They meet regularly to discuss the initiatives and to prepare presentations ready to explain some of our projects to the whole school community.

The Eco Monitors help to ensure their class is being as environmentally conscious as possible. They make sure that the lights and any electrical devices are switched off when there is nobody 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 to only use one paper towel when drying their hands. The school is enrolled in a local recycling scheme, who responsibly recycle batteries and old pens such as white board 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 to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

 Green waste being placed in the container by a Year 1 student

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. 

Helping to make the willow fence in the Forest School 

Planting Buddleia bushes to attract butterflies 

We are looking forward to launching our next project, which is going to be based on plastic. The main focus will be on reducing the amount of plastic that is found in our lunch boxes. We will be encouraging the parent community to get involved and our students will attend their coffee mornings to share ideas with them. The Eco Council will be helping to implement the plastic free lunches by setting good examples, talking to the younger members of the school and producing presentations that can help to inform the whole school community about why it is so important. We can’t wait to get started! 

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 seen raking up the leaves with our grounds staff. The Eco Council also love to collect litter during their play time 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 area. 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. 

Children enjoying their weekly Forest Sessions 

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 to decrease the amount of waste going to landfill. 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 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 newspaper that would otherwise be thrown away. 

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.

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.