The Netherland´s teaching modules: Work in Progress (WiP)
The Netherlands is a country located in North-western Europe. 'Netherlands' literally means 'lower countries', which refers to its low land and flat geography. Only about 50% of The Netherlands exceeds 1 metre above sea level! Most of the areas that are below sea level are the result of land reclamation resulting in large areas known as polders that amount to nearly 17% of the country's territory. With a population of 17.25 million living in an area of roughly 41,500 square kilometres, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Nevertheless, it is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products after the United States, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, and intensive agriculture.
Dutch meadows and their community of species
The wet, green and open land turned out to be very good for dairy farming. The vast open spaces also attracted a group of bird species we call meadow birds. The meadow birds feel very much at home in vast open areas without trees or other vertical landmarks. They use the areas to breed in and to raise their chicks till they are independent.
However, over the past decades the meadows have changed a lot. Due to the intensification of agriculture the wet and herb-rich meadows changed into dry rye-grass monocultures.
Intensification, because: 1) Dairy farmers like to sow their meadows with rye grass as this is a protein rich grass, that results in protein rich milk that the cow produce. 2) intensification of mowing, that do not coincide with the breeding season of the meadow birds. As a result, the community of the species that rely on the meadows has changed a lot. The numbers of meadow birds have declined dramatically. For some species, 70% of the world population is breeding in the Netherlands, we need to take action to stop the decline in numbers and make the birds feel home again in the meadows.
Involvement of the pupils
Taken the regional topic of the decline in population of meadow birds in relation to agricultural land use, the Dutch module will focus on food web structure and their stability against disturbance by human impact. During the module, pupils will interview a number of stakeholders that play a role in the meadows, such as nature conservationists, farmers and local politicians. Each group of 3 to 4 pupils is going to interview two different stakeholders to learn about their work and their stand view. Pupils get a picture of the different viewpoints/interests – economical, ecological and social – of all the different stakeholders that play a role in the management of biodiversity in the meadows. Additionally, pupils are going into the field themselves. They are going to measure the number of plants, insects, bird and mammal species that are present in meadows with different agricultural management and build together the food web structure for the different areas. As final product of the modules, pupils are going to present the results of their study to their parents and local stakeholders.