Forest garden as open-air lecture hall

Opening voedselbos
Opening voedselbos Piet Zijlstra

A forest garden is being created next to BuildinG. This sustainable initiative has been the dream of Piet Zijlstra, project leader at BuildinG for many years. Now there is a place for outdoor lectures where students can also do research and are responsible for maintenance. Zijlstra: "We want to create an accessible habitat where nature, education, businesses and local communities can come together."

"Two years ago, I did an exploration to create a tiny forest on campus together with researcher Joey Koning," Zijlstra says. "However, such an initiative was a bit too expensive at the time." That didn't stop Zijlstra from continuing to dream of a small forest at BuildinG. "I'm a member of Rabobank's Members' Council. I was asked during a meeting what I still dreamt of: 'a forest garden at BuildinG', I answered. Carlo Ezinga, cooperative director Rabobank Groningen Drenthe, remembered his remark. In honour of its 125th anniversary, the bank was allowed some extra money on sustainable initiatives. Carlo announced  that we could realise a forest garden. Rabobank is supporting the project with 125,000 euros. We are very grateful for that," says Zijlstra. Ezinga on the realisation of the forest garden at BuildinG: "The realisation of forest gardens is in line with our mission to make our shared living environment stronger and more future-proof. In addition, the forest will not only be valuable ecologically, but also socially: it will be used for education and innovation and will be accessible to everyone."

Horseshoe shape

The forest garden at BuildinG consists of native tree species and apple, pear and nut trees. The forest has a horseshoe shape. "This creates a kind of lecture hall environment. We would like lessons to take place in the forest garden. Student Jurre van der Velde is involved in the creation of the forest garden as an outdoor classroom for education. He is working on the design and layout. The forest will be about 20 meters wide and 30 meters long. “When it is finished, we will also use the forest for research into, for example, the cooling effect of trees, biodiversity and the growth process of trees. Can the trees we plant thrive next to BuildinG? In the vicinity of the forest garden, there is already a strip of nature that belongs to the municipality with trees, shrubs and various species of birds. We also want to use our forest to connect with existing nature."

Collaboration MBO

Stichting Koploperbos supplies the trees for the forest garden. The foundation plays an important role in promoting forest gardening initiatives and helps intrinsically motivated small and medium sized businesses, educational and other organisations to do business as sustainably as possible. For the forest garden, cooperation with MBO (a type of vocational college) and the business community is explicitly sought. "The forest also needs to be maintained. This is a great educational project for MBO students. The first contacts with AOC Terra have already been made. Many companies are present on campus. We hope that employees will use the forest as a meeting place. We want to create an accessible habitat where nature, education, businesses and local communities come together."


The forest garden will also be used for the Friluftsliv concept. This Norwegian term means 'life in the open air'. It's about learning in, from and about nature. Friluftsliv offers opportunities to work in new ways on themes such as the well-being of students, by reducing stress complaints, for example, and developing a connection with nature and a more protective approach towards it. In addition, there is a lot to learn in all kinds of areas, both technical and social, by taking a good look at how nature works and how it is structured. Within the Centre for Talent, Teaching and Learning, various activities are being set up, for both students and staff, to develop the concept further.  

First spade

The celebratory opening of the project took place on 5 April, when the first spade was put into the ground by Annemarie Hannink, member of the Executive Board. If everything goes according to plan, the forest garden will be ready by mid-November. "If students are happy to be taught outside, can do a lot of research and do maintenance work in the forest garden, then we have achieved our goal," Zijlstra concludes.

Fields of interest

  • Education
  • Environment