The Future Generation and the Future: connecting geography high school education and long-term planning of the Netherlands

This project aims to consider sustainable futures and do so in a way that connects social science knowledge and natural science knowledge and connects to stakeholders and societal developments by giving voice to the future generation and simultaneously contributing to the practice of ‘futures literacy’ in high schools.

Led by a multidisciplinary team, including UU researchers and alumna, Tine Béneker, Peter Pelzer, Tim Favier and Jaimy van Dijk, this project activity will be a collaborative journey with geography teachers (‘train the trainer’), two partners who are respectively engaged with the long-term spatial future of the Netherlands (NL2100 by College van Rjksadviseurs) and with geography education (Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap). Both organizations have initiatives lined up for 2022 and 2023 on which the team will ‘piggyback’ (inspired by John Robinson, personal communication).

Project Update

Since the funding has been awarded there have been meetings with the partners (KNAG and Cra – board of government advisors) to scope the project. Resulting from this meeting are three core aims (see below, for the changes to the project proposal). With the new aims in mind, exploratory conversation with educators have taken place if interested to participate in the project. Also on the Education day (KNAG Onderwijsdag) of the KNAG on December 1st ’22 a project flyer was distributed among 750 geography teachers with a call to register if interested in participating. The team also provided a lecture during one of the sessions of the Toekomstacademie of CRa.

Initially the two key aims were to (1) Develop a Community of Practice of Geography Teachers with an interest in the long-term spatial future of the Netherlands. (2) Involve geography teachers as ‘curators’ in a Museum from the Future. The first aim remains the same, the second aim we have adjusted slightly. Instead of the development of a Museum from the Future, the aims is to develop a toolbox / teaching module, with new or existing tools. A Museum from the Future is example of such a tool. In addition, we added a third goal where we stage a ‘boundary crossing’ in events / interactions between geography teachers, designers and other agents of change.  

In line with the three aims there are several plans in motion. For the first (curate and build a CoP) the flyer with the announcement of the project was distributed among geographical teachers on the Education day of the KNAG. The next step is to plan a meeting in the beginning of next year, to provide inspiration about the subject, give more in depth information about the process and make agreements to commit. For the second aim (identify, codify and experiment with the toolbox), desk research will be conducted and at the same time meetings with experienced geographical educators and teachers from the Geo Future School are scheduled to explore what the possibilities are. For the third aim (staging boundary crossing) we stay close to existing events where we gather inspiration for our own process. For example the monthly Future Academy (Toekomst Academie) of the Cra. We will also contribute to events like the lustrum conference of the KNAG on the 9th of June 2023, the future studio of the Cra (toekomstatelier) at the end of June and the Education day of the KNAG at the end of 2023.

Project Update (September 2023)

A lesson series, named Timelines for the Netherlands was developed, with the aim to give students a hopeful perspective on the future by experiencing that multiple futures are possible. There is a lot going on in the physical environment at the moment, such as how we deal with climate change. Often these kinds of issues get negative coverage in the news. This can lead students to experience feelings of powerlessness. In four lessons, students look at developments around the themes of housing, energy, mobility and nature and agriculture at the scale of the Netherlands. Through various creative assignments the students experience both past and future on a timeline. The scenarios from the Ruimtelijke Verkenning (2023) (Spatial Outlook), published this spring by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), were used to visualize the future.

So far, the lesson series has only been tried out in practice on a small scale with a group of geography teachers on the after school training day in June. We are currently looking for teachers who would like to test the lesson series in the classroom[1].

Interested teachers can also sign up for a one-day training in September or October to experience the assignment. Also, in November at the Education Day of the Royal Dutch Geographical Association (KNAG), the largest geographical after school educational event with around 900 participants, a workshop is scheduled to inspire even more teachers. 

Finally, there is also an exploration as how to include the assignment into the handbook of future thinking in development by the board of government advisors (Cra) and vice versa, how to make the handbook useful to geography teachers.  

With the development of the lesson series and the testing of it along multiple events, we have contributed to our aim spark an interest in the long-term spatial future of the Netherlands among the community of geography teachers.

[1] See:


This project was made possible through Pathways to Sustainability Seed funding.