Creating the best school for the Netherlands and the world

I met Marcel Kampman recently. He was born, lives and works in a small town, 130 kms from Amsterdam, Meppel. This week I learned that Marcel is a father of two. His dream is that his children will be inspired to achieve brilliance by the teachers that teach them, the curriculum that they are taught and by the schools that they attend. A dream that I share for children around the world. But he also realises that this may be a pipe dream since it’s a scientific fact that children are far more creative at the age of 4, a whopping 98%; than at the age of 18, a depressing 2%. Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element: How finding your passion changes everything and TED talks reveal that schools actually stifle creativity instead of nurturing it. Seemingly, when we start school, we’re at our fullest potential but, each time we make choices, we leave ourselves fewer and fewer opportunities, which slims down our potential when we finally complete our education. “The more you choose, the more you lose.”

With this in mind, what if you could reinvent a school from scratch? What would you change? How would the technologies that reinvent education impact the construction and design of the building? How and what would you teach? Unlike many before him, Marcel Kampman has stood up to the challenge and Dreamschool Foundation and Project DreamSchool was born in the Netherlands. He’s now spreading the word at Lift and TED, gathering opinions and ideas and reinventing schools. Watch his presentation at Lift.

And, let’s face it, creating anything new in schools is a scary task. There’s that break with tradition and everything that’s governmental and bureaucratic. The project innovators of Dreamschool are ‘making it up as they go along’, since very little they think about, has been done before. They do have help from brilliant minds around the world though e.g. Sir Ken Robinson.

Am I curious as to where it will end up? Yes, sure I am! Do I believe it can work? Yes, I do. The biggest dreams start with the most ordinary people. What makes these people different, is that they dare to try. The stone age didn’t end due to a lack of stones you know. So, perhaps the age of classical education ends here! You can follow Marcel and the activities of Project Dreamschool on his website or you can follow him on twitter.

Hungry for life

2011 is a year to revisit many beautiful places I’ve been before. Places that I love. Cape Town, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Umbria and Tuscany. Revisiting places I’ve been and love is liberating. There’s no rush to explore the sights, to photograph the vistas and stop at every village en route. It’s all about enjoying the moment, taking in the sights with your eyes (not through a camera lens) and stopping to smell the roses. Or in my case, the smell of lavender, red African dust or Asian spices.

Whether travelling for business or for pleasure, I always find the time to really enjoy where I am; to get to know the locals; understand the customs; practice my, less than proficient, language skills; visit spots off the tourist map; delve deeper into the culture and the history.

Revisiting countries also gives me the time to chat to fellow hotel guests and hear how they are changing the world. For me, the UN’s World Food Program now has a face. Two inspiring ladies, passionate about the work that they do. “Developing simple solutions that have far reaching impact.” Josette Sheeran, executive director at the WFP told me about her recent visit to drought-stricken Somalia and the lives that are being saved; the programs being rolled out by the WFP to ensure that girls can remain in school until they are 16 years old and their father’s don’t marry them off much younger for a dowry; and she spoke about her visit this week to just some of the WFP’s partners in the Netherlands, TNT, DSM and Unilever. Because, without partners and funding a number of projects just wouldn’t get off the ground.

My most common saying on a really busy day is, “I’ll be doing all of this, and I’ll be solving world hunger before breakfast.” Said in jest of course, as for me this is unattainable. Having met Josette, I’m thrilled that she’s with an organisation that stops at nothing to ensure that this happens. Josette recently presented at TED in Edinburgh where she spoke about why, in a world with enough food for everyone, people still go hungry, still die of starvation, still use food as a weapon of war. Her vision: “Food is one issue that cannot be solved person by person. We have to stand together.” Watch her talk about “Ending hunger now” on TED.

Travelling helps me regain my equilibrium, to reset my brain and to appreciate all that I have in my life. I travel to beautiful places, I meet extraordinary people and I get to eat culinary delights. I eat regularly and I seldom feel hungry, unlike many people that the WFP helps around the globe. I doubt I’ll ever be able to ‘quench my thirst’ for global travel or ‘still my hunger’ for new experiences. But, whereas I’m hungry for life, there are still too many people around the globe that are just plain hungry. Since every penny counts, please read about the WFP’s initiatives and see how you can help.