Report Alkmaar 2022 – 1st exchange

By , October 4, 2022 11:17

It is all about waste…

Alkmaar, September 2022

For two years it was impossible to organize an international exchange between students. Now we are happy to pick up where we left off, with a whole new group of students!

On Sunday, September 25, 2022, the first exchange of the school year with French and German students from Lycée Les Lombards (Troyes, France) and Georg-Büchner-Schule (Darmstadt, Germany) took off! The 24 students from Alkmaar’s twin cities arrived on Alkmaar Central Station with their accompanying teachers, their luggage and a bit of anxiety.

Their shyness quickly disappeared when they met their exchange buddies in real life. When they left the station to go to their host families, already they were feeling reassured about the days ahead.

Monday morning, the group was first welcomed at school by the principal, Mr. Ansink and then introduced to the Dutch, English and French teachers involved in the project.

To get to know each other better, the students did some sports activities. Since all participating teams wanted to achieve the best results or even win the competition, cooperation and communication were indispensable.

To get to know Alkmaar, the students went exploring: they crisscrossed the city center in search of miniature worlds, tiny scenes created by a local artist. Since our internationalization project is all about waste and ecological footprints, a second assignment was also included. The students worked in groups to find a place with an eye for sustainability in the city. For example, a place where materials are recycled, single-use packaging is discouraged, or used items are resold. In that location, they had to design a new miniature world. To do so, they had to take a picture of the place and then photoshop themselves into the photo as miniature people. Later in the afternoon, they presented the results of their creativity to the whole group. They were asked to explain their choice and how the place they picked contributes to a sustainable world. One example is a group of students who posed in front of an ecological supermarket that uses as little plastic packaging as possible.

Tuesday started with a discussion on waste and sustainability. The issues were presented to the students in the form of dilemmas. For example: “Would you rather never eat at McDonald’s again or always clean up litter on the streets?” Talking about these dilemmas gave them insight into their own behavior and what they can contribute to saving the planet.

The students used these insights to prepare for a debate at City Hall that was scheduled to take place Wednesday.

After lunch, there was the paperclip challenge. Objects of little value, instead of being disposed of in the trash, had to be exchanged for objects of more value. The treasures that the students obtained without buying anything new were offered to the thrift store.

At the thrift store, the students were given a tour. They learned that items that are of no use to some people can be of great use to others. This works both ways: production and waste can be minimized and useful items can be purchased by people who are less fortunate financially.

A cross-the-line activity on Wednesday made students even more aware of their potential role in climate change. For each statement presented, they could either walk across the line if the statement applied to them or stay put if the statement did not apply. The discussion afterwards made it even clearer that young people are concerned about climate change and see it as a real threat. They talked about what they could do in their own environment to minimize their ecological footprint and to reduce waste. They came up with ideas such as: waste separation bins at school, a ban on chewing gum, fewer visits to fast food chains and to buy less or used clothing.

A farmers’ market was held in the center of Alkmaar. During a break, all students had time to visit it and learned how many different products one can buy that are locally and ecologically produced, with less pollution from transportation or pesticides.

Later in the afternoon, the alderman at City Hall welcomed the students before they began the debate competition. Darmstadt and Troyes are Alkmaar’s sister cities and every year the alderman makes time to welcome the students participating in our project.
Read the news story on or Press room.

After the debate, there was time for fun. The whole group went bouldering, we saw some real talents, and we had pizza as a farewell dinner. With the topic of the project in mind, it was clear that no food scraps should be left on the tables. Students made sure the teachers took home all the leftovers so no pizza slices would end up in the trash.

Time flew and the next morning the French and German groups had to leave. Saying goodbye was hard for some, but the knowledge that they will see each other again in November or February made it a little easier.

We really enjoyed receiving the students and teachers from Darmstadt and Troyes here in Alkmaar. We are all looking forward to the next exchange!

Students from Alkmaar wrote in our group-app:

“Thank you very much for allowing us to participate in the exchange, it was a lot of fun.”

“I thought it was super fun! I was talking to a few people about how nice everything was arranged, the debate in the town hall, the tour of secondhand store and climbing, everything was super fun! Looking forward to part 2!”

“Thank you so much for everything. It was great, really a new experience.”

“Thank you for organizing this fun project. Not only did I get to know people from Germany and France, I also got to know people from our own school better! Everything was super fun!”

“Thank you so much, I had super fun and I met a lot of new people!”

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