Sense of Place in Schools Sharing with Community: Case of Dutch Brede Schools

The Netherlands’government began actively adopting the community school concept in the early 1990s, and it is one of the countries that has most successfully implemented the concept and these community schools are called “Brede Schools” (translated as Broad School, hereafter brede school). Community schools are known to make a school a place for learning and growing up contributing to families and communities in society. However, the aspects of environment required for the community integration with the school environment is not addressed enough in the school research. Children in the Netherlands are obligated to start school at age 5 and attend eight years of compulsory primary education, including two years of kindergarten, in the same school. The placement and operation of school facilities is critical to coordinating the school user’s everyday life and the effectiveness of the physical environment. Dutch community-sharing schools will be much more impactful to individual child development as children attending those facilities will be influenced by the same spatial setting from a much younger age to adolescence compared to regular schools in other countries.

Based on diverse pedagogy and religion as well as freedom of school choice, Dutch schools tend to be small institutes that practice their own combination of educational philosophies, such as Montessori, Dalton, Waldorf, Jena plan, etc., and religion, such as Roman Catholic, Christian, Islam, or non-religion public schools. It is also common for several schools to share facilities with each other and also with the community. The minimum outdoor space is 3.0 m2 per student in primary education with a minimum of 300 m2 per school and a playground is not an essential facility.5 Therefore, schools in favor of attracting extra facilities may be built under the premise of sharing these facilities with the community as well as other schools and institutes, and it is natural that schools with different educational philosophies and religions are inevitably built on the same site and sometimes in the same building sharing the common facilities. This characteristics of the physical condition of Dutch schools helped the sharing policy take hold without issue. However, specific aspects of sharing are often not addressed sufficiently, as there is always a site- and situation-specific solution rather than a thorough discussion by multiple stakeholders.

The popularity of the brede school is remarkable in the Netherlands and yet child developmental issues are still not fully addressed. Developmental issues related to community schools are usually focused on social resources in terms of family and community relationships, and research on students’ academic achievement is overwhelming in the research. Regardless of the wide spectrum of brede school users, children are the main body of school occupants, and they are the most seriously affected by conflict among the institutes involved and issues of functional efficiency in their school setting during eight years of their development.

In this case study of five different brede school settings, children’s lived experiences in the shared school and community space is analyzed to determine the influence of those settings on child development. A total of 85 people, including parents, teachers, and students, participated in questionnaires, interviews, and round-table discussions focused on spatial knowledge, environmental confidence, attachment, and psychological restriction.

TABLE 7.5 List of questions for students

Draw your school (school guide map).

Mark the boundary of your school.

Mark your classroom (use the dot sticker).

What area do you like most? (Use the arrow sticker.) Why do you like it? What do you do there?

Do you know what kind of community facilities exist in your school?

Can you show a visitor around every corner of your school including community space?

Has your teacher ever restricted your access to a space? Do you know why?

What is the most frequently used community space? What is its purpose?

Have you ever met any strangers you don’t want to meet in your school?

How do you want to change your school?

The methodology used in the research was similar to the research for schools in Hawaii based on the drawing of children, which reveals how children perceive their school environment and form attachments to particular places in their school; where students are confident of their environment, their spatial knowledge is stronger and their cognitive development is positively influenced and accelerated. Drawings were carefully analyzed based on the location of boundary markings as well as missing spaces in the guide map.Table 7.5 shows the main question list for children used for written and sketch as well as interview formats.

The main intent of the drawing and questionnaire for students was to find out how much students are aware of space sharing with the community and their level of spatial knowledge including location, function, and use-related policies. It was also expected to reveal whether students consider the school their own and could form a sense of place when asked to mark their favorite place and boundary of the school on the drawing. In addition to the objective verbal and visual expression about those shared community spaces, aspects of children’s attachment to the school environment in brede schools could be reviewed through the children’s school guide map testing the attachment to particular spots in school boundaries regardless of inclusion of those community-sharing facilities.

School A is the most tightly integrated single school format and is literally surrounded all day by various community space uses, some of which are located deep within the educational space (Fig. 7.11). School B is coupled with the other school, separated by a huge concourse that links various community facilities covering two floors (Fig. 7.12). School C is a special case as it is an additive remodeling for the new school type known as “Kindcentrum,” which represents the future direction of Dutch schools that will cover age 0 to school age, even extending to the senior community (symbolically called age 100). In the case of School C, other institutes related to childcare and community health were included in addition to existing senior housing in the upper level of the existing school building. A new school

School A

FIGURE 7.11 School A

School B

FIGURE 7.12 School B

for special education is also included in the additive part of the building complex (Fig. 7.13). School D is the case of officially borrowing community outdoor space, and the controlled indoor space is shared with the community in coordination with the school schedule (Fig. 7.14). School E shares a small number of interior spaces with another school such as the gym, kitchen, and playroom occupying the hinge area (Fig. 7.15). Typical sharing facilities of the five schools are the gym, library, assembly hall (aula in Dutch), meeting room, extra classrooms, kitchen (canteen), lounge (living), community care (preschool/daycare), playroom (small gym), outdoor play area, and fields, as shown in Table 7.6.

School C

FIGURE 7.13 School C

School D

FIGURE 7.14 School D

School E

FIGURE 7.15 School E

Outdoor space makes a meaningful difference for each school’s context. While School A has a barren, manicured play area in front of the school building (Fig. 7.16), School D integrates a community park, officially borrowed as a school playground, and students actively use those spaces during break hours (Fig. 7.17). School B also has a separate small outdoor space belong to each school exclusively, while School E is sharing outdoor play space with the adjacent shared school-facing field. School C’s small courtyards are directly accessible from individual school spaces. Diversity in the ownership of schools revealed interesting results from the student participants in terms of awareness and attachment to those outdoor spaces.

 
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