Although large parts of the Netherlands are vulnerable to flooding from rivers or sea, the flood risk awareness of young people in the Netherlands is generally low. Students in secondary education generally underestimate the chance and impact of floods, and don’t know what to do in case of flooding. Utrecht University and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences conduct research on how to make students more aware of water-related challenges in their local environment. Based on their research, they have also developed instruction materials that are currently used in secondary education.
“If you want to make young people aware of water-related challenges in their environment, you need to know what are frequently occurring misconceptions”, argues Geography and Education researcher Dr. Tim Favier from Utrecht University. “In addition, you need insight in how students learn when they are confronted with different kinds of spatial information about water issues. For that, the research conducted by Dr. Adwin Bosschaart from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences provides useful insights”, Favier says.
So, how do students think about flood risks in their local environment? “I think dikes are very strong, they can never breach.” “If the dikes breach, the water will be knee deep, at max.” “They will probably come to rescue me.” Just three expressions from interviews among 15-year old students in Culemborg, a village with one of the highest flood risks in the Netherlands. A large-scale survey among students in flood prone areas showed that they think that a flood may occur in the Netherlands, but that it is not going to happen to them (Figure 1). Their flood risk perception is low despite campaigns and lessons about water management in schoolbooks.