The children come to the garden every Wednesday and Thursday to learn more about biodiversity, the seasons and climate adaptation, and they also get to work in the garden themselves. This morning is the first time that year 5 group has visited the garden, but not quite everything is going according to plan. The idea was that the kids would bring in a pumpkin plant to the garden. They were reminded about it several times yesterday. But actually only one of the kids has brought a plant. Still, they’re all having a lot of fun on plot 13, the still-vacant plot in the Vivaldi district. Running around, playing on the mountain of wood chips – and luckily their teacher Mr Lander has brought some seeds along, so the kids can sow some marigolds.
The idea came about through a partnership between the Green Business Club Zuidas and the Amsterdam International Community School (AICS) and with the support of Zuidas and the Amsterdam Zuid district, which has provided part of the funding required. Diederik Imfeld, project manager at Green Business Club Zuidas, told us: ‘For us, the garden is a reminder of the importance of climate adaptation and biodiversity in the coming years. In addition, there are quite a few plots in Zuidas that will remain vacant for the next few years. An overgrown vacant plot of land doesn’t look very attractive, so we thought: why not do something with it? Something that looks attractive, adds more green space and brings people together. Together with the school, people who work in Zuidas and local residents, we thought about how we could put the vacant plot to good use. The result is a green space for learning and a wonderful place to sit.’
Full of ideas
A landscape gardener came in to create the first contours. There are paths made of wood chips, a transparent Eskimo hut and containers where children can sow seeds. Strawberries will also be planted in containers to keep the marigolds company, and there is plenty of room for more flowers. ‘We talked to the children and they said they wanted to see a lot of colour in this space. And they had plenty of good and clear ideas, like adding insect hotels, compost heaps and a water butt to store rainwater’, says Imfeld. ‘We asked them to draw a picture of their perfect garden. That inspired the gardener for her first design. And now it’s up to the kids to take things further.’ The gardener makes a weekly video with tasks. And the teachers have also done workshops so they know exactly what to do when it comes to sowing and planting.
A place for the whole community
The Green Business Club Zuidas wants people who work in Zuidas to feel at home here, too, Imfeld explains. ‘It’s not possible right now, but we want to encourage companies and residents in the area to take part soon. That doesn’t have to mean anything grand or ambitious. Of course, it would be wonderful if a company were to give a workshop about, say, biodiversity here, but even just bringing a jug of lemonade is also very much appreciated. The idea is that it will become a place for the entire neighbourhood, helping to educate everyone.’
A great opportunity
The only kid who remembered to bring a pumpkin plant proudly shows it off to the rest of the class. It’s a really pretty one, she says. ‘We haven’t got a garden at home, so I think it’s really fun that we can practise on plants here.’ Mr Lander nods his head. ‘This is a great opportunity for the children, because a lot of them don’t have an outdoor space at home. And just look at them – they have so much fun here, especially in this beautiful weather.’ The idea is that groups 4 and 5 will come here a few more times before the school holidays start. And from September to the end of 2022 they will carry on planting and sowing.
Rest of Amsterdam
Students from nearby Vrije Universiteit are also getting involved by researching everything that is being learned here. ‘The idea is to roll out this initiative in the rest of Amsterdam’, explains Imfeld. ‘There are so many vacant lots around that are not being used at the moment and that’s a shame because we have the opportunity to bring different (age) groups together.’