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The Ecology Project: Place-Based Education in The Hague


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

There are no pre-requisites for this course, but students must submit an application in order to be considered for admission. The deadline is Tuesday January 4 2022 at 23.59.

This semester there are three Global Citizenship courses on offer that are by application only (The Ecology Project, Searching for Sustainable Livelihoods, and the SPOC: DPM). If you are applying to more than one of these courses, please indicate (at the top of your application) which of these courses you are applying for, how many you can accept (perhaps you have room in your study plan to participate in two), and your preference ranking of each. Please use the following indication: 1-first choice, 2-second choice, 3-third choice. If you are indifferent, give the course the same ranking (both a 1).

In addition, please provide the following:

  • A letter of motivation in which you 1) explain your motivation to take the course; 2) indicate which modules are you are most interested in pursuing, naming at least two (see below for details); 3) describe your Dutch-language skills (these are NOT required, but students who can read Dutch are particularly encouraged to apply); and 4) list your year at LUC and your major.

  • Your CV (just a very basic one is OK!)

  • Your transcript (print screen from Usis is fine)

  • Submit all documents via email to Dr. Ann Wilson:

Submit all documents via email to Dr. Ann Wilson: The deadline for this will be the same as that for course registration, Tuesday 4 January 2022, 23:59.


What does it mean to educate young people in an environmentally responsible manner in 2021? How can we connect the learning that takes place in classrooms to the local environments in which they are situated? And what should be the relationship between our education systems and the more-than-human natural world?

This course is a variation on LUC’s Community Project course, which combines the academic study of education in a multicultural society with hands-on experience working with pupils of a local secondary school. Unfortunately, in times of Covid the planning for weekly, on-site, and indoor work with adolescents is rendered difficult. But it also opens an opportunity. This year, we are transforming this course in an “open air” version, with an explicit focus on the practice of education in relation to local environments.

The Ecology Project will introduce students to the theory and practice of place-based education, a process that uses “the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts [across the curricula] . . . and helps students develop stronger ties to their community, enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world, and creates a heightened commitment to serving as active, contributing citizens” (Sobel, Place-Based Education, 2013). As in the Community Project, we will learn about the history and politics of education in the Netherlands. But in addition, we will also ask how student learning can be enriched by meaningful engagement with local environments.

Part of our investigation will be historical, examining the trajectory of nature study movements in the United States, where they were particularly widespread, and linking these to parallel developments in the Netherlands, where early twentieth-century educators like Jac. P. Thijsse and Eli Heimans transformed children’s (and adults’) understanding of local landscapes and set the stage for Dutch conservation movements. Another part of our study will be theoretical, as we examine a range of approaches to place-based and environmental education targeted at different age groups (children, adolescents, adults) and focused on different themes (ecology, environmental justice, climate change). And a third part of our course will be practical. Four teams of students will develop concrete education modules based on local environments, with the aim of being able to deliver at least one component of each module to real humans by the end of the semester.

Given the background and expertise of the instructor, the emphasis will be on bringing an environmental humanities perspective to bear on placed-based curricula. But students from across all LUC majors are encouraged to participate, helping us make the most of cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The planned modules are:

  • Nieuwkomers: A place-based workshop for children who have recently migrated to the Netherlands (and who are still learning Dutch)

  • Leiden Hortus: An educational tour of the Leiden Botanical Garden, aimed at teaching adults about the historical (and colonial) relationship between local and tropical ecologies and knowledge systems.

  • Nature in The Hague: A place-based curriculum for secondary-school students focused on urban environments in our (surprisingly green) city.

  • Climate Leadership: A training programme for secondary-school and/or university students focused on local challenges related to climate change.

This promises to be a demanding course, but also a rewarding one. It will get you out of the LUC bubble and into the city (and nature) of The Hague, and it will prompt you to think in new ways about the relationship between schools, environments, and society.

Questions? Feel free to send an email to the instructor.

Course Objectives

Overall, this course will help you develop 1) content knowledge about the historical and contemporary practices of place-based education, and 2) practical skills in preparing place-based educational modules.

Successful completion of this course should enable students to:

  • speak in an informed way about the history, challenges, and opportunities of place-based education in the Netherlands and beyond.

  • reflect in a critical, self-aware manner upon their own beliefs related to education, environments, and citizenship, and empathetically engage with people who may hold different beliefs;

  • apply theoretical concepts about place-based education to the creation of concrete educational modules;

  • cultivate their research, communication, teamwork, and teaching skills.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The first half of the course will mix seminar meetings with excursions to local green spaces and community partners. The second half will focus on the preparation of the education modules. Students should be prepared to do a substantial amount of reading and weekly written reflections in Block 3, and to work in a motivated, independent manner in Block 4 (though with guidance from the instructor and community partners).

Note: because of regular field trips in Block 3, this course will meet for a 3-hour timeslot on Wednesdays, as well as a traditional 2-hour timeslot on Fridays. Field trips will take place mostly within the city of The Hague, and so our travel can take place by bike and tram. We will, however, make one or two trips by train. If travel costs are an issue for you, please contact the instructor.

Assessment Method

  • Weekly, informal reflection papers of ~400-500 words each (submitted as a portfolio at the end of Block 3) - 30%

  • A brief essay and annotated bibliography focused on a select theme within place-based education (due at the end of Block 3) – 30%

  • Group Project (due at the end of Block 4) – 40%

Reading list

All readings will be made available digitally.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Ann Marie Wilson (