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The Ecology Project: Exploring the History, Theory, and Practice of Nature Education in the Dutch Context


Admission requirements

The only prerequisite for this course is that you have access to a bicycle and a willingness to ride it within a 10km radius of Anna van Buerenplein. Students from all majors are welcome – as are first-year students.

Students must apply for admission (mainly to provide for a balance of Dutch- and non-Dutch-speakers, and to ensure that everyone is committed to working hard on behalf of our partner organization).

To apply, please prepare the following:

  • A letter of motivation in which you 1) explain why you would like to take the course; 2) indicate your Dutch-language ability (Dutch is not required required, but students who can read and understand the language are encouraged to apply); and 3) list your year at LUC and your major.

  • Your transcript (print screen from Usis is fine)

  • A brief CV (just so we can learn a bit more about your work and study background)

Please email this to Dr. Ann Wilson:, with the subject line: “Ecology Project Application.” (And if you are applying to a second Global Citizenship course for this semester, please mention this and rank your preferences.)

The deadline for applications is Monday 1 January 2024, the same deadline as that for the general course registration.


What does it mean to feel “connected to nature” in an urban, industrial society? How should children be raised in relationship to the “more-than-human” world? What is “ecological literacy” and why does it matter? And how can nature educators cultivate a sense of wonder, adventure, and responsibility among different groups of students?

In this course we will explore the history, theory and, above all, the practice of nature education in the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt river delta—in other words, in our particular corner of the Netherlands. It is a unique collaboration between Leiden University College and IVN (, the Dutch Institute for Nature Education (Instituut voor natuureducatie).

To begin, we will learn about the origins of nature study in Europe and European settler-societies and examine the way it has developed over time. We will then study the philosophy of nature education and engage with contemporary debates about how societies should instruct young people about the natural world around us—particularly in the context of political polarization, social inequality, and ever more pressing warnings about climate change and biodiversity loss. And all along the way, we will learn about the characteristic flora, fauna, soils, and landscapes of the Netherlands, about the country’s fascinating natural history, and about a range of local organization that engage with nature and sustainability. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will develop storytelling skills that will help us bring these lessons to others.

By the end of the course, students should feel prepared to work as nature guides, ready to lead groups on tours of our nearby parks, dunes, beaches, and other natural areas. In exchange for the training IVN will provide us, LUC students will offer thoughtful feedback on IVN’s pedagogies as well as help in developing ways of engaging young people (aged 15-25) with Dutch nature – based on our reading of the academic literature and on our experiences in the field.

Course Objectives

This course will help you expand your knowledge of:

  • the characteristic flora, fauna, soils, and landscapes of the Netherlands

  • nature areas in Zuid Holland, from polders to parks to dunes

  • local nature-based initiatives, including community gardens and the Tiny Forest programme

  • the history and philosophy of nature education in Netherlands

  • contemporary debates about nature education and its relationship to environmental citizenship

This course will help you develop skills in:

  • designing and delivering instructive and engaging nature tours

  • working with different groups of learners, including those whose ideas and experiences of nature may be different than yours

  • reflecting in a critical manner about your own ideas and emotions as they relate to nature, education, and environmental citizenship

  • climbing trees (yes, really)

And, last but not least, the course aims to be a lot of fun.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course meets once weekly on Wednesdays, from 11:15 to 15:00. Class sessions will alternate between indoor seminars, which will focus on the discussion of assigned readings, and outdoor excursions to nature areas in and around The Hague, where we will learn through a range of different exercises led by experts from IVN.

The course is scheduled in a 4-hour timeslot to make sure we always have time to travel to and from our destinations – usually by bike. It is expected that we will all pack lunches and eat together during our class sessions. And for the outdoor sessions, students should dress in layers, ready for all weather. Be sure to have a warm coat, hat and gloves, and shoes that can withstand mud and water!

Assessment Method

  • Participation – 10%

  • Reflection Journal – 30%

  • Nature Quiz – 25%

  • Group Project (designing, justifying, leading, and reflecting on a nature excursion) – 35%

Reading list

Most readings will be made available digitally. If any books are necessary for purchase, this will be communicated in early January.


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,

In collaboration with experts from IVN, the Dutch Institute for Nature Education (