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British School site brings generations together

Some great outdoor space was something that had been missing from the Geert Groote College until now. Of course, there is the impressive concrete staircase at the entrance to the building – which also serves as a social meeting place since there is no school yard – but there was nowhere to enjoy a game of football. That has all changed since pupils have been able to make use of the former site of the British School Amsterdam (BSA) next door. ‘They now have a place where they can exercise, play, relax and learn all kinds of things at the same time. A great solution’, says biology teacher Asmara Defize, who has been involved in landscaping the area on behalf of the Geert Groote College.

Demolition and grass sowing

Ultimately, housing will be built on the site of the former BSA. Since construction work will not start for 18 months, we have decided to relandscape the site temporarily in consultation with the local neighbourhood. We previously dismantled the temporary annexe, demolished the main BSA building and removed all the cables and pipelines from the area. At the start of the summer, we sowed the site with grass. We also added a table tennis table, goal posts and large planters measuring 3 x 3 m. The school pupils are now growing herbs and vegetables in them.

Learning to observe

These little gardens offer all kinds of options, says Defize. ‘Of course, it’s great fun watching a tiny seed grow into a mature plant, especially for city children. But we aim to use the site for much more than that, applying the phenomenology method: rather than learning something in a textbook, this focuses on the experience. For example, if we’re studying the theme of poetry, I can see the children heading into the gardens to observe how a spider crawls or how raindrops fall onto a leaf and then writing a haiku all about it.’

Community function

This green area is gradually taking on a life of its own: people stop there for a while to read a book or spontaneously arrange a picnic. We have deliberately landscaped the area to give it a real community function and the school is also eager to play a role in this. ‘I think it would be a good idea to use this space to enable pupils to get together with elderly people, for example’, says Defize. ‘These two groups live alongside each other in the same neighbourhood but know very little about each other’s lives. One idea might be to have the youngsters cook a meal and then invite the old people to the site.’ There is certainly no shortage of ideas.

Schedule for housing construction

Talks are still underway with the housing association Eigen Haard on the construction of housing for the site. Once the formal agreements on this have been reached, the design process will begin. After that, the necessary planning permits will be applied for. Currently, construction work on the housing is scheduled to start in early 2024 for completion by the end of 2025. We will provide further updates when everything has been agreed and Eigen Haard is starting the design process. Eigen Haard itself will also be organising information sessions.

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