The Frisian Maritime Museum is magical for children

The three suitcases need to be repaired now because they have been used by about two thousand children. Currently, the number of schools visited is already eighty. The suitcases are part of an educational program developed by Anke Roorda and Merijn van Veen, the two educational staff at the Fries Scheepvaart Museum. At least twice a week, they or one of the five enthusiastic volunteers visit elementary schools in Friesland

Born of necessity

The visit to the elementary schools was actually born out of necessity. It arose because schools could not come to the museum due to corona. Each year, the educational staff creates a program that is in line with the school’s curriculum.

“We had already developed something when we received an inquiry from Schoolkade in Leeuwarden, a broker in programs for schools. They had heard that we had developed something with technology for younger children – grades one to four. To complete technology lessons for this age group is difficult for many schools. They have Lego and Kapla in the classroom, but that’s it. Teachers find technology lessons important, but they have no time, no background and no methods. They like that there are providers like us. On that way they get an hour of technical training at home.”

“You must surprise children”

The fantastic thing about the Fries Scheepvaart Museum’s huge collection is that there is always something in the house suitable for the young. “In this case, we have made a combination between technology and shipping. The contents of the three suitcases that the ‘T-team’ leaves with mainly contain material on the chronology of shipping.”

Thanks to their many years of experience, Anke and Marijn know what works for children. “You have to surprise children. If you are surprised, you will want to know more. We have incorporated all senses into our program as far as possible. Tell something, do something, taste something, listen again. Mostly by doing, because we know that children’s tension is low.” Children, but also their parents, are geared to the digital world, say Anke and Marijn. “There is nothing wrong with that in itself. If you are talking about the solar run, you can directly search for a video via Digibord. But in our volatile society, stories help anchor knowledge. The challenge in storytelling is therefore to tell the stories in such a way that children are drawn into the story.”

A canoe made of concrete

The lesson focuses on floating, sinking, hydropower, wind power and solar power. “‘How did people move on water long ago?'” we ask. That way we come up with a canoe, one of wood and one of concrete. What happens if we put it in the bowl of water? Why does one sink and the other float? Then we switch to a sailboat. People get tired of canoeing. So it’s nice if you have a boat where the wind helps you. So the children assemble a sailboat during the lesson.

‘I’m going out shopping, how much can I bring?’ is the next question. The children must put rocks on the sailboat until it sinks. Next comes the steamboat. Children are allowed to heat the water in iron boats with tealights. And suddenly the boat starts to sail. It’s magical every time.”


“We will continue with the container ships that can carry more and more cargo. With a photo of a container ship, we show that the cargo can fall off. Some older children remember the MSC Zoe. The following is a photo of a solar ship; the children can make these themselves from a propeller, a solar panel and wires. If we put on a construction lamp, the ‘sun’, the propeller will turn and the boat will sail. When the sun goes away, it stops spinning; even more magic.”

After the technical lesson, the children receive a family card. On presentation of that card, they can go to the Fries Scheepvaart Museum with the whole family for free. An action that runs smoothly, according to the two educational staff. “After the weekend, we can see on the spear at the entrance how many have used it.”


The experiences from the past school year have meant that the educational staff is ‘tainted’ by the technology side. The theme for the lower classes for the coming school year is: ‘we are building a boat’. “We have to look up the old craft again, and from there we continue with new techniques. We have purchased a laser cutter with which you can make building boards. We will also use a 3D printer. 64 groups have already booked this theme.”

And what happens to the used suitcases this year? “They go with one of the volunteers to her grandchildren in The Hague. How nice is that?”

Text and photos: Riemie van Dijk

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