15 May 2014 saw the second Ons Klimaat (‘Our Climate’) practical afternoon for year 7 children from the Koning Davidschool primary school in Ede. This programme teaches children that the temperature is not the same wherever you go, and that we can take measures to improve our living climate when designing districts. The voyage of discovery introduces them to new skills such as spatial awareness, solving land survey problems, studying natural phenomena and writing a convincing informative text.
After an afternoon of theory spent analysing various climatological situations in the area around the school, the children came up with a number of questions. During the practical afternoon, the children go in search of answers to these questions in small groups under the guidance of a parent. After half an hour devising a research plan, they venture outside armed with a smartphone to record temperatures and ultimately find answers to their questions. The final afternoon is an opportunity for the children to use the knowledge they have acquired to compile an improvement plan for the area.
All these activities are part of the Ons Klimaat teaching package for upper primary school children, which teaches a number of compulsory key competencies. The teaching package is part theory, but mainly offers methods that allow children to discover things for themselves. They record the temperature in various locations around the school using their own smartphone. This shows them that temperatures can differ; that it is warmer in the sun than in the shade, that sheltered spots are warmer than spots close to water, etc. They then learn that this also applies on a larger scale: it is warmer in the centre of town than in a leafy suburban area, and urban areas are warmer than the countryside. Furthermore, they learn some very basic research skills, such as devising a research plan.
‘This is an exciting experiment for us as researchers,’ says Matthijs Danes, researcher at Alterra Wageningen UR. ‘In this project, we are using laymen to gather information; a group of people with no specialised prior knowledge. We are interested to find out what sort of information this research provides us with, whether it is reliable and how we can use it for new scientific research.
All primary schools in the Netherlands can take part in ‘our climate’. ‘The more schools the better!’ says Matthijs Danes. ‘It gives us a new source of data for our research into the living climate in town centres’. This is not only relevant to Dutch people with health-related problems that are made worse by these conditions (the elderly or asthma patients), but it also provides new information about the impact of green areas in town centres.
For more information (in Dutch), go to www.onsklimaat.nl