According to the Ministry of Education, the solution to concerns about education is more focus on math, more language skills and more knowledge about citizenship. That seems counterintuitive to the movement toward more nature connectedness. Attention to language is important anyway, so why not work directly on a language that connects us to the world and all those other forms of nature? A language of inter-being with verbs to describe our sustainable actions. And forms of citizenship can also be extended to sharing the Earth from good care and experimenting with rights of nature, can’t they?

_Paul Roncken, report More Nature, Deeper Education, Bridging the Gap symposium May 1, 2024


With my eyes closed, I tried feeling through the concrete floor of the large teaching building on the campus of Wageningen University & Research. Around me were over 160 other participants. The accompanying voice of Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld helped us on our way, but the gap between the dark space inside and the awareness of the Earth around it, was huge. A bridge had to be built, Bridging the Gap. How many students before us have wondered why being taught in this black box is good for them? Or do students in science not wonder? Are they, as speaker Marca Gresnigt pointed out, used to their bodies being there mainly to carry their important head around? Marca was reminded of this when she watched – once again – Sir Ken Robinson’s influential TED talk (2006). According to Sir Ken Robinson, current education is killing creativity and humanity. While the best teachers anyone has had in life are remembered precisely because of their creativity and humanity.

Is more intensive engagement with nature a way to teach students to be more creative and human? More nature, deeper forms of learning?

Petr Lom, the director of the film ‘I am the River, the River is me’ (2024) talks about his learning journey. From being a scientist, which he rolled into naturally, to being a filmmaker, which he feels much more comfortable with. Because it gives him more meaning. Because it allows him to touch more people. He started making films because he knows these dark lecture halls all too well. How do you create an experience in the darkness that inspires justice and wonder about the world? (Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan 2005; On a Tight Rope 2007; Burma Storybook 2017). The reason he shows a few excerpts from his latest film is because he hopes all those teachers in the room will start thinking about how they can use this kind of experience in their lessons.

Being in the world, how can you be in the world even if the harsh environment of educational architecture works against you?

Petr talks about a way of being in the world that he learned from Maori Ned Tapa, guardian of the Whanganui River in Aotearoa/New Zealand. “You introduce yourself by sharing which river shaped you. You exist, thanks to the water that makes life possible”. Ned Tapa explains in the film clip that the same applies to mountains as to rivers. He also explains how long they have been fighting, more than a hundred years, for the rights of the river to count as much as the rights of people and businesses. Someone in the audience asks, “what is it like for the Maori to be seen this way? Does it match their perceptions?” It is, says Petr, the best possible recognition at the moment. With river rights, Maori intangible values are also recognised. An important step towards healing.

Are we in the Netherlands also ready to heal something we are barely aware of? Is the fast-growing rights of nature movement also a way to prioritise the right to nature-connected education? And which river, or which part of sand or clay or peat, helps awaken intangible values in this delta by the sea?

Lian Kasper and Sietse Sterrenburg ask who was also present last year, at the first of this annual series of meetings. A third raised their hands. Many new audiences, in other words. Lots of people from forms of education outside Wageningen. Lots of opportunity to get to know people who are also taking steps in nature-related education. To thus bridge a gap between sometimes being indoors and more often being outdoors with all the additional benefits. And a gap between education as a must and learning from humanity and creativity, with, in and as nature.
All attendees gathered turned out to have a lot to offer. The initiative collection board filled up very quickly with calls and proud initiatives. A board spanning the entire breadth of the lecture hall, with radical innovation on one side by supplementing from idiosyncratic learning activities, and on the other, offerings that fit completely within the regular educational setting. The whole spectrum is present here this afternoon. From Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld’s pioneering ‘Spirit of the Wild’ to an outdoor classroom at Aeres University of Applied Sciences. See the photo collage of all the offerings.

Do all these forms of nature-connected learning need the same thing to grow healthily? What form of connecting helps bring together what is sometimes invisible at the moment?

Lian Kasper, the education programme manager at NatureCollege says a lot has happened in the past year. Thanks to joining forces, small initiatives have been strengthened and the nature-inclusive idea is well on its way as a quality framework for improving education. An important step has been taken through the Collectief Natuurinclusief, an ambitious swarm of nature-inclusive pioneers in all areas of society. From construction, economy to education and healthcare. Commissioned by the collective, Merel Collenteur, Lian Kasper and Louise van der Stok collected all current ideas on nature-inclusive education and turned them into a poster and report (see this previous blogpost). A beautiful visual representation of five dimensions of the kind of education we are gathered for this day. Retrieved from more than 300 surveys and 30 conversations with experts. The current nature-inclusive trend appears to be part of a hundred-year-old tradition from green and grey education. Green when biological nature is centralized, grey when the environment and sustainability are central.

Aren’t the terms green and grey a bit too one-sided in these gender fluid times? Doesn’t the return of the wolf call for the colour red; and doesn’t the search for spiritual stability call for something quite different from colour?

Next year, Bas van den Berg and Jolanda Lütteke of The Hague University of Applied Sciences will talk to students and teachers and parents of all forms of education in the Netherlands. They want to test the dimensions from the poster and collect the best examples in practice. This will help them to take big steps this year to make nature-inclusive learning more concrete and use it for the necessary transformation in all forms of education.

And how can I join the collective and the work of The Hague University of Applied Sciences?

Sign up to the collective via Nienke Martinus here.
What we will also share next year: the first experiences of teachers and trainers during the first nature-connected teacher training at Wageningen University & Research. Initiated by NatuurCollege and the centre for learning and teacher support. A Nature Inclusive Teach the Teacher training. A programme with four modules to help teachers from their own subject area to offer their teaching in such a way that it makes their students creative, authentic, grounded and naturally eager to learn. In four modules: on worldviews – on outdoor education – on emotionally connected teaching – on weaving nature-inclusive teaching into your own subject.

Isn’t nature-connected education simply the pedagogical improvement appropriate to our times? Appropriate to the vocation of teaching; appropriate to overstimulated pupils and students; appropriate to searching parents and employers? Finally the appropriate kind of educational improvement, after a few hundred years of experimentation?

Hint for Wageningen teachers: on 10 June there is an inspiration lunch for the curious WUR staff: Inspiration Lunch Workshops – Intranet WUR  (on this page you have to log in with a WUR account and then scroll down a bit to find our workshop) –


In ten partial sessions, small groups delved into topics close to their own experiences.

Research and evaluation session
Maria Tengö en Reineke van Tol

How to research the effects of nature-inclusive education? A conversation emerged about the power and threat of bias when it comes to the relationship to ‘nature’ (in scientific terms: bias). The subject of ‘nature’, like the subject of ‘religion’, is not value-free. How do you measure effects if you cannot avoid the fact that by paying attention to nature, you also invite nature to have an impact? Participants shared their experiences. It is important not to stay within your own target group ‘bubble’; paying more attention to long-term effects (longer than three years) helps to make a ‘bias’ less influential; be alert to the difference between sustainable behaviour and connection with nature; indigenous cultures, for example, show that they do not always show sustainable behaviour but are connected to nature; do not stare blindly to avoid ‘bias’, because then you miss the very effects that the research itself brings about.

Student support session
Simon van der Els

We focused on creating a student support group at Wageningen University for those students feeling the weight of a changing world. During our research, it became clear that choosing the right words is important to reach the people who need it. The group you want to reach here may not yet be aware of their complaints. We quickly came to the point that we needed to focus on three things: (1) Convincing the right party within the educational institute that this initiative is important for the well-being of students and thus the university’s mission in its mission to train “changemakers”. (2) Integrate the right network of staff and facilitators in and around the education institution (Student support and training, student psychologists, student life coaches and more). (3) Designing and developing the right proposal including the why, how, what and where of such a network. For this, we want to integrate insights and data from relevant sources (including climate psychology). The next step is to draft such a design and collaborate with interested partners.

Session teacher training nature-inclusive
Marca Gresnigt

In this workshop, we looked at five domains of nature-inclusive learning to explore what this might look like in an academic setting. In small groups, we discussed physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and action-oriented aspects of nature-inclusive learning.
The physical domain was mainly seen as outdoor education, with nature supporting learning subjects. What about student safety in outdoor environments? What about wellbeing in indoor education? Back pain, burn-outs, not enough light and fresh air, unhealthy food, coffee…
The cognitive domain provoked a discussion on how nature can support the learning of theoretical subjects such as mathematics or language. Contact with nature elicits different vocabularies and invites reflection on how the use of language shapes relationships and actors. Learning in nature was linked to reciprocity – using nature not only for the quality of our lives, but also giving back to the whole. This domain brings fundamental reflection on ‘why do we do what we do’.
The emotional domain brought reflection on the role of psycho-emotional safety for learning. Through our inner nature, we can learn with and from nature. Nature can give us a sense of recognition in the learning process when we use natural materials. Nature invites a conversation about values.
Spirituality and science are not easily connected. Embodied learning is one way to enter this domain. What you feel and experience matters. Feeling connected to a bigger picture – having meaning. But also using intuition and making space for what we cannot measure and know. Little things like check-in/out can be important – changing the little ‘rituals’ in teaching that structure learning. It is important to be careful with this topic. One negative experience for a student can close the door.
In the autumn, we will teach the first version of the WUR course on nature-inclusive teaching. To be part of this, go to the site: Educational Staff Development Courses ( or contact Marca Gresnigt (Teaching and Learning Canter WUR).

Session nature as a foundation in primary education
Anouk Tates en Marina Gorobevskaya

Because Het Zonnelied is an experiential, nature-immersed primary school, we designed the working group accordingly. lnstead of presenting a powerpoint, we immersed the participants in the experience of our methods. Not by explaining, but by modelling and facilitating the experience.
– designing with the natural learning cycle
– care routines of nature connection (how to pattern the brain to become a natural learner)
– demand-driven mentoring and the learning benefit
– telling stories that engage and integrate all senses, connection as a basis for peacemaking and self-regulation
– 8 character traits that develop as a result of deep connection with nature
– facilitating a connecting container
Call to action: we invite researchers to conduct research at our school. In our experience, many diagnoses (such as ADHD or ASD) become strengths and gifts in our natural environment. We would like to know why! We invite teachers or anyone working with children and young adults who wants to know more about our methods to get in touch. We have several learning modules to teach you about our methods. Contact Anouk Tates

Outdoor sensory education session
Beitske Bouwman

That a multisensory approach can be transformative was experienced by participants in the workshop given by Beitske Bouwman, Anaya Academy. Exploring the senses in the environment of the WUR opened several new perspectives. The softness of the leaves in the park were felt by a participant: ‘I never touch trees, it’s great!’ Slow walking was an invitation to experiment with this in professional life: ‘I think I will go outside more during my work, I might be able to make my phone calls by walking instead of sitting at my desk,’ mentioned a participant who works as a policy maker. We are nature, if we start taking care of our own inner nature, we can change the world around us. And we can already start changing our own behaviour in daily life. Or as one student put it after the session: ‘Tomorrow I am going to ask my coach to coach me outside’.

Session lessons from practice in secondary schools
Ester Klein Hesselink

How do you bring deep learning into secondary education? In this workshop, we will discuss a living lab for deep (outdoor) learning that Wageningen Pre-University will organise for secondary school teachers starting in September. Ester Klein Hesselink went into the field to find out what questions and needs teachers have to get started with deep (outdoor) education in their lessons. Her experience with the ‘Parliament of Earthlings’ project was very recognisable to the participants. A role-play was held with the participants to allow the Wild Pedagogues (who want to develop wild pedagogy as part of everyday life) and the Wild Teachers (who need practical teaching principles) to give each other tips and starting points. There was a discussion on how to make our (seemingly) different thinking on education and learning goal attainment overlap more. One outcome was that going outside means taking in other perspectives from other cultures, customs, ideals and other environments. This calls for more reflexive and reflective education that often struggles to relate to testing and draws more on one’s own and others’ direct experience (phenomenological).

Session different dimensions of nature-inclusive education
Merel Collenteur

In this session, we focused on integrating the different dimensions of nature-inclusive education. Nature-inclusive learning methods, such as flow drawing, inquiry-based learning and embodied learning, offer effective ways for this holistic, integrated approach. We experience nature-inclusive learning methods to encourage enthusiasm and curiosity. Coyote teaching encourages students to dive deeper into the mystery, rather than ending the learning process with a quick answer. With this experience in mind (and body), we designed a number of learning methods for nature-inclusive teaching. This resulted in embodied experiences for students that combine art, music, nature, meditation and specific knowledge. Ask more questions, it will foster your curiosity and gratitude for life!

Climate emotions in the classroom
Elisabet Dueholm Rasch

In the workshop on climate emotions, we talked about how we can use storytelling in our education to deal with climate emotions. We also exchanged many experiences about dealing with emotions in education more generally and how we can find the balance between paying attention to this but not playing therapist.

Reconnecting with Nature you reconnect with your own inner nature
Prinses Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld en Karin Oeseburg

Participants were challenged to walk in silence and focus on the natural elements around them, contrasting with the busy, man-made environment of the campus. After a journey through parking lots and between buildings, they finally reached an idyllic spot in the nature garden behind the Alterra building. Here the participants shared personal stories about their connection with nature, then the participants were invited to lie on their stomachs and focus on life within half a square meter in front of them. As they observed the diversity of plants and insects, they realized that nature simply ‘is’, without judgment or haste. This insight led to a deeper understanding of patience and respect for the time it takes to live in harmony with the earth.