Report of trip to The Netherlands, 17th – 21st May 2017

I arrived at Geldermalsen station in Gelderland in The Netherlands late on Wednesday night, 17th May. The country had experienced temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius that day and it was still very hot when I arrived. Anton very kindly met me at the station and drove me in his landrover to my hotel, Schildekamp Hotel in Asperen, near Leerdam.

Teachers from the other schools in the project were also staying in the same hotel and we met at breakfast the following morning. Anton collected us at 8.00 am and we set off through the countryside to the village of Opheusden to meet the staff and students of the small school, Het Palet.

We were greeted by the Director of the school, Diana Brouwer, and her very friendly staff. The morning began with a meeting about the progress of the project to date and a discussion about the evaluation report which all schools must submit to their agencies at the end of the school year. We had been considering our responses to the questions on the evaluation form for some weeks beforehand. Jose, from the Spanish school, had produced a very detailed response for his school, which was of enormous benefit to the group discussion. I agreed to look at this on behalf of other schools but it needed very little adjustment. It was also agreed that all schools scheduled to host meeting in the coming school year would give Anton the precise dates for these visits within the next three weeks so that partner schools can avail of cheaper flights with early bookings.

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Nils and Ece from Turkey presented all of the schools with a special laminated poster about eh project. It includes the logos and crests of all the schools involved and we can display it in the lobby of our school in Bray. Later we had a demonstration of technical boxes; the Dutch school had created a box with materials to make a Da Vinci bridge which we had an interesting time working on

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Pupils melting wax to make soap, using materials from one of the technical boxes.

The Czech school had a most interesting digital device called ‘Bots’ which Eva demonstrated for us. This device can be programmed to move in a particular manner along lines of specific colours; eg. Black line – Go straight;  Red line – turn 180 degrees, etc. Pupils can programme this commercial devise to follow simple commands.

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We were very fortunate to be able to visit a local 200 year old windmill and meet the windmill operator, Pieter. He explained that it’s a voluntary position and that he had to undergo 150 hours training in order to be allowed to operate the mill. While it is no longer in use commercially, it is still important to keep the wheels turning so that the wooden mechanism will not crack or seize up.

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After lunch we went to the small school in Omm, where we met Pieter Moerenbout, a teacher who has a passion for teaching science and who has developed a special science room in his school. This was really interesting and it was obvious that he was a most committed and enthusiastic teacher.

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He gave us some ideas on how we can make science and technology more accessible and interesting for our own pupils and we envied the children in his school, who had such a wonderful teacher and so much space and resources devoted to the science studies and technology.

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The following morning Anton took us on a visit of the area. It was amazing to see a leaning brick tower attached to the local church and even more extraordinary to see that, close by, in the graveyard was a grave of one Cornelia Pisa…

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That afternoon, I returned to my hotel to work on the evaluation report for my school. Later I went for a walk through the charming village of Asperen and visited the local shops.

On Saturday afternoon we travelled to Rumpt by bus to attend Anton’s garden party. He and his family have been organising a garden party for several years and each one has a special theme. This year the theme was ‘picnics’ and we were each given a picnic bag for our food. The food was delicious and there was even a jazz band who entertained the one hundred guests all afternoon.

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Many thanks to our hosts, Diana and her staff in Opheusden and to Anton who organised so much for us.

Maeve Tierney