Taking care of nature (Observation of a local school in Alken)

For the cultivating communities project I will develop a sustainable scenario together with local schools in Limburg. The first school I will work with is ‘het schommelbootje ‘in Alken (Belgium). From September 2011 tot July 2012 we will try to co-create an inspiring context and educational toolkit focused on sustainable development. We start out we a research phase and move on to a design phase. In the research phase we will explore the daily environment of the students through several creative observation methods. In the design phase we will develop and test prototypes for the educational toolkit.

The research started with an observation of the school environment. It is located in the village of Alken not far from the city of Hasselt (Belgium). The school building itself is a beautiful renovated farmhouse, which provides an inspiring environment for the project. The observation day started out with a workshop organised by the school. Taking care of nature was the central theme of the workshop. When I arrived at the school the teachers explained the importance of the theme to the students in a playful way. Afterwards they divided the students into smaller groups.

Each group had a different mission, ranging from planting a garden in front of the school to making a small play around the central theme. Each group occupied one of the several interesting spaces of the school. One that struck me the most was the wishing tree in the central playground. Apparently it has a very important emotional function; students can gather around the tree and talk about their wishes and dreams to each other.

At the end of the day each group presented their results. I was very impressed by their creative ability’s. They presented real practical solutions for talking care nature like using less water or putting the lights down to consume less energy. The students and teachers at ‘het schommelbootje’ are true experts of their own experience and I look forward to working with them over the next year.



About Cultivating Communities

The context of Cultivating Communities is the transition towards a sustainable society. Because of several environmental issues this is one of the biggest challenges that our and future generations are facing. I am convinced that this implies a shift from a material-focused society to a people-focused society. During my PhD research I will explore how design can enable people to become part of this transition. Experimenting with designing scenarios executed as creative contexts, engaging toolkits and community platforms will be a central part of the research. I believe that scenarios can be powerful instruments in enabling people to contribute to sustainable development. The potential of these enabling scenarios will be tested during the cultivating communities project. The goal of this project is to develop an education toolkit and platform focused on sustainable development for elementary schools. Together with some local schools in Limburg (Belgium), I will develop a sustainable scenario around a community of vegetable-like characters. The aim is to enable the students, teachers and parents to design the content of the scenario.