Our arrival in the Dutch school was a welcome breath of fresh air. The buildings are really light and airy. The school is shaped as a block with a central courtyard. The two floors flow around this central space with classrooms on both sides. The classrooms are really light with glass on both sides spreading the light right through the whole building. The students have a 10 period day with classes at different times. Very few are in lessons 9,10 and the school takes lunch in stages. The lunch break is 45 minutes and students either have lunch during period 4 or 5 depending on when it is timetabled. This is such a simple idea but allows a better break and not a completely crazy lunch break with 1600 students all taking lunch at the same time. Students have the freedom to come and go during the day depending on their lessons.
Study spaces are all over the school too. These are relaxed atmospheres that aren’t patrolled by staff by students get on with their work either on their own or in groups and the students seem to be working in these spaces. The stark contrast of the freedom of the students and the relaxed atmosphere compared with the regimented approach and control of students in the UK is really refreshing.
The school is really relaxed without a uniform either, students seem really relaxed. No uniform, make up polished nails. The students mainly cycle to school so the students are naturally more active too. How can two countries that are so close geographically be so completely different and our students are really embarrassing the relaxed atmosphere but are really engaging with the work.
If you ask students to get into groups in a school in the UK they simply gravitate towards their friends and then their productivity can be impacted by the level of conversation that ensures that is far from the task in hand. However, put them in groups in a foreign country and make them sit with students of different nationalities and then give them some clear tasks to complete and the work effort was fantastic to see. Students were engaged and discussing with their counterparts about the themes and puzzles.
During their session, they had to work through the conversion from decimal and binary numbers. This is to break down students understanding of their number system that has used from the start of their education with numbers and replace it with a system based on only 0 and 1. This changes the ability to count to 10 on fingers to 1023. It isn’t the easiest of systems as when the numbers get large very quickly it becomes complicated to understand. The basis of binary is from computing and either getting a signal or not. On or off.
In the afternoon the students went home and we went to Nijkerk. The town was having a farmers fayre and the whole town was alive with market sellers, food stalls, live music, and people dancing in the street. We had missed some of the displays and shows that had been on during the day but it was great to see so many people out celebrating and a real carnival atmosphere.
Being in Holland makes you want to join in the with traveling by bike. There are hundreds of miles of cycle paths all over Holland. It is probably one of the fastest ways to get across town as the cycle paths are favoured by towns and cars are often directed round a longer route. No one wears a helmet and cars are really aware of cyclists and at junctions, they are given right of way over the car. We managed to borrow some bikes and took a short ride back to our hotel. Tomorrow we will attempt to cycle to school and also the out for dinner. Can’t wait to see how that goes.
Dinner tonight was at a teachers house. Zelda isn’t a native of the Netherlands but actually from South Africa. Her house is built in part of the Netherlands that was claimed from the sea less than 50 years ago and her house is built on the canal. Well, half the house is on the canal and the other half is built on the bank. Sitting on the decking only 6 inches above the water on a beautiful sunny evening was simply stunning. The immediate feeling of peace and tranquility whilst standing there watch the world go by was so deeply relaxing. She had cooked an amazing dinner with some native South African dishes. We were truly spoilt by the food and hospitality of her and her husband and the food was simply delicious. A recipe to take home and cook for the family!