200 years of Zuid-Willemsvaart through children’s eyes: ‘Woooowww’


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Vigil | What was the place where you were born? What choices did people make in the past, so that your living environment would be the same? How does this affect you, the people around you, and your social environment? These and many others are covered in the comprehensive curriculum over the 200 years of Zuid-Willemsvaart. Merigstad students dive in these months.

“Good morning, I am Bernard Gudrian. I am an engineer and I am the son of the man who designed this canal.” Children of Group 7/8 of Elementary School Maria ter Heide look up with anticipation at the man in a bowler hat, black coat and long cane. This morning they are on “De Vaart Vertelt”, a boat trip in collaboration with the Meierijstad Library, which leads from Noordkade to the inland container terminal in Veghel and back. Actor Bernard is full of stories and actively engages students. “Why are you digging such a channel?” Asked. and: “How do you bridge the difference in height?” It always causes frowns and spontaneous reactions. “How are you going to build such a channel?” “With an excavator.” “Well, they weren’t there then. It was dug up by hand.” “Woooowww…”

Rick Terwindt

Standing at the station is city poet Rick Terwindt, who, among other things, tackles the waste problem, reads a poem and challenges the children to come up with themselves two lines of poetry, so that they can “scream” into a bowl. “The students will remember this morning, and he will be with them for the rest of their lives,” teacher Judith says. Moreover, it is a different way of learning and thinking for them. Hair makes some children uncomfortable. They don’t really know what to do with it. But in the end, it is they who come up with the most beautiful words.” “This is different from learning from the book,” asserts one of her students. A colleague adds: “Bernard said that men and women do not get paid the same for building the canal. What really surprised me is that it still is today! “I thought it was hard to do by hand,” says one of the children. “What a job, you don’t realize.”

Social relations and cooperation
In addition to “De Vaart Tells”, the escape box is a popular activity in schools. Group 8 students are working at De Heijcant Primary School this morning. As the clock ticks and tension mounts, children learn about the time of King William I. Social relations, different interests, cooperation and history of the channel: it all passes. Debriefing provides the necessary coherence. Professor Raynot asks, “Have I really been good to King William’s people?” The class is silent for a moment: This question makes them think clearly. When the box opens after 75 minutes, you hear humble cheers.

Visions for today and tomorrow
The boat trip and the escape box are two of the many activities spanning 200 years from Zuid-Willemsvaart for primary and secondary education. The spider in the web is Cultuurkade Meierijstad, in close cooperation with educational institutions, cultural and municipal partners. In addition to the above activities, there are also percussion, theater and visual arts workshops. The common denominator is past-present-future: extending lessons from history to insights that are still relevant today and tomorrow. “Kids learn a lot from this,” says Vic Barton of Cultuurkade. They learn how their living environment was shaped and that there are different interests in society. But they can also change something themselves, so that they can design their own future. Anyone involved in this will forever view their environment differently. You are also shaping yourself in that moment.”

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Until the summer holidays, schools are occupied by the 200 years of Zuid-Willemsvaart. If it were up to Cultuurkade, the software could also be used again and again in the coming years. “This is the beginning, and we hope it will continue to grow,” says Vicki Barton. “The channel is part of our environment, so it will always be valuable.” She is not the only one who thinks this. “If you want to motivate children, you have to do it this way,” says Professor Rhynot van de Heijkant. “How cool would it be to start with this topic in this way?”

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