Earth Charter education and event in the Netherlands

Earth Charter Center For Education for Sustainable Development faculty Sam Crowell and Mirian Vilela facilitated the Center’s ESD intensive programme “Masterclass: Education and Values for Sustainability: Teaching What Really Matters” in the Netherlands in October, 2014. The course was accompanied by two coaches from the Earth Charter Netherlands network, Ignaz Anderson from the Iona Foundation, and Earth Charter Council Member Alide Roerink. The course was hosted at the International School of Philosophy in Leusden by the Earth Charter Netherlands (Iona Foundation, Inner Sense, and the Earth Charter Friends) and AVANS University of Applied Sciences.

Once again, Sam and Mirian collaborated to offer a compelling and successful programme on transformative learning and teaching using the Earth Charter. There were 16 participants, mostly from the Netherlands. The week consisted of five intensive days of training as well as guest lecturers in the evenings.

On Thursday evening, 16 October 2014, the class attended an Earth Charter Netherlands event titled “Right to Food” in celebration of World Food Day 2014. The event speakers included former Dutch Prime Minister and Earth Charter Commissioner Ruud Lubbers, ECI Director Mirian Vilela, Sam Crowell, bee expert Tom van de Beek (I Love Beeing), EC Youth Ayla van Kessel, Hanny van Geel from La Via Campesina, and Volkert Engelsman, Earth Charter Endorser and CEO of organic food wholesaler Eosta. Some 80 participants enjoyed an international meal and engaged in the network event, which was organized by NCDO, Inner Sense, UPeace The Hague, and Friends of the Earth Charter who together form Earth Charter Netherlands.

Here are some testimonial quotes from the programme participants:

First of all I’m very pleased that I took the course. It gave me confidence about the way I act. It made me a stronger person. I feel more connected with myself and my environment. I don’t think that I learned a lot in a cognitive way; it is more that I really met other people and myself in a beautiful way. My story has changed in a more positive and hopeful way. To describe it: I feel in my heart that I have taken great steps further for myself and my environment.

So I must say that I’m very thankful to Mirian and Sam and all the participants. I hope that my connection will be sustainable, so I have to take care of that. I hope we all stay connected.

Clementine Degener


The Earth Charter Masterclass offered me a more comprehensive way of looking at the interface between earth-based education, sustainable learning, and ecological pedagogy. The scientific input of Sam Crowell interweaved with a holistic view on the Earth Charter principles by Mirian Vilela opened a wider vision on the developmental possibilities of a true and authentic paradigm shift in education. The most valuable understanding I gained from the course: “That a living learning community (Sam calls it a ‘learning culture’!)  breathes an ongoing collective story, not static but dynamic, and told by ever-changing windows on the world…” With this, our Earth School in the Netherlands feels empowered to spread the word and develop a concept for Earth Charter–based learning communities in the world. Last week we introduced a new ‘meta curriculum’ in our school: each of the four seasons of the year is dedicated  to one of the main Earth Charter values; school subjects like math and languages are naturally embedded within these themes. For this autumn, the EC value is “ecological integrity” and the students chose the theme ‘bees and the web of life’. We feel grateful and connected…”

Mirjam Olsthoorn, PermaLand Foundation / Aardeschool


The masterclass ‘Education and values for sustainability: teaching what really matters’ has been a great inspiration for my work as an educational researcher at a teacher training college, and for me as a person. It offers a balanced combination of theoretical knowledge, practical knowledge, and opportunities to put these sets of knowledge to work through dialogue and activities. The trainers each bring their expertise and life stories and have found a way to combine these in such a way that the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts. For me, as a researcher, Sam Crowell offers the perfect example of how research can be a matter of the mind and the heart.
While the participants were all somehow working in the field of education, they brought a wide range of backgrounds, orientations, and perspectives to the programme. This diversity sparked dialogues, offered examples that made you think outside your usual frame of reference, and added depth to the shared understanding that evolved throughout the week. It has been highly inspirational to discover that ideas that I believe to lie at the heart of any discussion and inquiry into what ‘good education’ should and could be about, are so widely shared and valued.

Aziza Mayo


Joining the earth charter master class felt very good because I felt that I was a part of a big, worldwide positive movement. It gave me hope and reassured me that there are many people all over the world determined to put their energy towards making the world a better place for everybody living now and for generations to come.

It felt good to make and feel the connections with other people with the same hopes, and together share our views on subjects concerning a better world and especially what we can do to implement this in our daily work: the field of education.
For me, many important things were said, but three words stand out and I feel strong and determined to take any opportunity to emphasize them, hoping to guide other people around me to see them too:

–    When there is no connection there will be no learning.
–    When a school is not connected with the community around it, learning is difficult.
–    1 + 1 = 3: if we dare to share and work together the outcome can be much more than   expected.

When people (colleagues, teachers, students, stakeholders) see the bigger picture (= have a holistic view = are aware of interconnectedness of important things in life) learning will be for life and not be limited to one subject at a certain moment.

In education, awareness for the needs of our planet and its people will grow most when it is made visible interwoven with the subject you are teaching at that moment.
These are my personal lessons learned at the earth charter master class. I thank you for your inspiration, and please keep on spreading the earth charter principles around the world. I hope we will do it with more and more people and I will be one of them!

Desiree America