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Kindercampus ‘community hub in the new Ravel neighbourhood’

From whichever direction you look at the Kindercampus Zuidas, one thing catches the eye: the wild and natural garden. In it, children enjoy digging in the sand and dragging pieces of tree trunk around. On warm summer days, you may even see a rubber dinghy floating in front of the familiar decking. ‘International parents can sometimes be quite hesitant about that water’, laughs the current director of the Kindercampus Zuidas, Miriam Heijster. ‘I always say: we’re used to living below sea level here in the Netherlands.’ Her colleague Jet Hilberdink, who takes over from Heijster after the summer, adds: ‘Our annual raft race has now become a popular tradition. In the new location, we also want to still have a place where can continue to build huts.’

Water games at the current Kindercampus Zuidas
Jan Vonk

New challenge

In the summer of 2024, the Kindercampus will move to the yet to be built Ravel neighbourhood. The primary school and childcare centre in the building will be moving around 50 m (as the crow flies) to a brand-new building. The definitive design should be complete in the summer of 2022 and construction is set to start in 2023. Talks with architects’ firm RAU are in full swing, and yet it’s now – after almost four years at the helm of the Kindercampus – that Heijster has chosen to bid farewell as director. ‘I was ready for a new challenge, but thought: I can’t leave in the middle of such an intensive process. I either have to wait or leave now. I opted for the latter.’ Heijster could not have wished for a better successor than her colleague Jet Hilberdink, who, like her, knows the Kindercampus like the back of her hand. Hilberdink still teaches group 8 and is teaching supervisor in the primary school. ‘That makes me well placed to map out our ongoing strategy’, says Hilberdink. ‘Actually, the same applies to the whole team. All of them have made a conscious choice to work at this school.’

Developmental education

Kindercampus Zuidas is a school that focuses on developmental education. ‘It’s all about children’s curiosity. They can only learn if they are engaged. Not only in the classroom, but also outside it’, explains Hilberdink. ‘We want to see this reflected in the new building, by including a lot of communal areas. A professional kitchen, for example. Already, we have a theme in which group 6 pupils harvest vegetables from our own vegetable plot every Friday and then cook them together in our existing, rather small kitchen.’

Director Miriam Heijster (right) and successor Jet Hilberdink (left)
Jan Vonk

Library and cake

Heijster and Hilberdink’s specific plans for the new building include a school library with a small café, where children can sell what they’ve baked. ‘They can make the cakes themselves, but you could also allow them to sell them as well. That way, the children can learn through play’, says Hilberdink. Heijster nods: ‘It would be great if we not only had pupils’ parents visiting, but for the place to have a community function. To see local residents come and enjoy a cup of coffee in the library. We really hope to become a local community hub in the new neighbourhood.’

National flags

At the Kindercampus around 70 different nationalities are taught in two languages. Everyone is welcome, as the dozens of national flags decorating the school hall make clear. ‘There is no single dominant nationality, which makes us unique’, agree Hilberdink and Heijster. The new Ravel neighbourhood will soon have room for 1,350 homes – 40% social rental housing, 40% mid-market rental and 20% owner-occupied homes. Does this mean that the pupil population will change? ‘It may alter a little bit. But the idea that we’re currently only teaching the children of Zuidas lawyers is a misapprehension. The great thing is we’re actually a cross-section of society. We may have pupils with a private chef at home, but we also have just as many children from apartment blocks in Buitenveldert.’

Challenges

The location of the new building – at the centre of the residential neighbourhood soon to be built – does face challenges. ‘Ravel will be a car-free neighbourhood. We currently still have a shopping delivery service every day here, so we will need to come up with a solution for that’, says Heijster as an example. The advantage is that she has been involved in the design of the new accommodation from the outset, enabling her to have input on every detail. ‘Take the existing school hall’, says Heijster. ‘It’s great, a real meeting place. But I now know group eight’s musical by heart, because they rehearse it every week and I can hear every word in my office’, she laughs. ‘We really are outgrowing the school.’

Text: Iris Cohen

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