‘If you’re going to make something, you’d better make it circular’

Published: October 19, 2022 • Reading time: 5 minutes and 23 seconds • News

If we want to provide students who are ‘agents of change’ with knowledge about sustainability and circularity, you must first ensure that teachers can transfer that knowledge. This is the idea behind the teacher training course on circularity, which was immediately fully booked three times.

The training is an initiative of EAS director Mirjam van den Bosch, lecturer Circular Design & Manufacturing Marcel den Hollander and Eveline Bijleveld as theme coordinator Circular Makers Industry. They felt there was a need for it, and as soon as the training came online, that expectation was confirmed. ‘In no time we had thirty registrations’, says Bijleveld, ‘and in the registrations I see a broad representation of the institutes’.

Circular product chain

On Thursday 6 October, the so-called ‘teacher class’ was given for the first time. Fifteen participants from different institutes – HRBS, IvL, EAS, RAC and CMI – delve into circular business models and design strategies. They get that training so that they can later train their students in this way of thinking.

‘The great thing about circularity is that you can always include this aspect, no matter what field you work in.’

They first learn what circular really means, get examples and then get started with a product themselves. ‘What does the chain of that product look like’, says Bijleveld, ‘and what do you need to change to make it a circular product? And which business case is it about? The great thing about circularity is that you can always include this aspect, no matter what field you work in. In the training, teachers can discover where their own sphere of influence lies and how they can pass this on to their students.’

‘Ethical’ as a complement to design thinking

The training is provided by Bas Roelofs, Roelofs is associated with CIRCO, an organization associated with CLICKNL. CIRCO encourages companies and schools to get started with circular design. The circular approach from the book Products that last by HR teacher Marcel den Hollander forms the basis of the CIRCO courses. The participants in the training also get this book home.

Roelofs shows how design thinking initially assumes that a good value proposition lies in the overlap between desirable (desirable), feasible (feasible) and viable (viable). ‘Innovationsnævnet (a consultancy within innovation, ed.) has added ‘ethical’ to this, which can include circularity, dealing with materials, energy and labour, he says. Additionally, he notes that this addition requires some research, it’s not something you just stick with.

Various uses in education

The participating teachers started working in groups of four with a digital tool, Mural, to visualize ‘initiate – ideate – implement’ phases of design or product development and work with issues in the business administration, financial or legal domain. Teachers can also use this tool themselves when they start working with their own students.

This can be done in many ways: a workshop or a project for, for example, all 2nd year students, a case or assignment from an external client, an elective or minor for a smaller group or perhaps a major change to the curriculum. For teachers who want to initiate a curriculum change, there is a continuation on CIRCO, the curriculum kit. It is about the question ‘How do you connect it to your education’, says Bas Roelofs from CIRCO.

Change of perspective

It is especially important in the primary teacher class that the participating teachers look at things differently: ‘You don’t have to change everything you have, it’s primarily a change of perspective. Once you see it, you can’t take it anymore does not see’, Bijleveld sums it up. “If you’re going to make something, you’d better make it circular.”

“Once you see it, you can’t do it again” does not to see’

Entrepreneurship teacher at HRBS Milou Knierim believes she can use the education for curriculum development and innovation that is underway at HRBS, now that the circular economy has become one of the spearheads there. ‘It’s about how we can train students from the HR business school to become change agents,’ she says. ‘It also fits very well with my personal motivations to live sustainably and inspire others with it.’ ‘Experimenting is the only way to learn something’, says her colleague Clarette Bonebakker, who is also a member of the education committee for COM. ‘Giving students the opportunity to work with tools like CIRCO’s provides insight into what they need to learn to make a difference in the transition from linear to circular thinking.’

Teaching material in sustainability

Janneke Verloop calls it ‘communicating the gospel’. As a teacher on the biology teacher training course, she tries to let the theme of circularity seep through to youth education through her students, for example from the international Erasmus project. HORIZON 2020 EdBioEc and the subject of fauna and sustainability.

Her colleague Karin Kreijkes from lero economics gets her students to develop teaching materials in the field of sustainability. ‘They have to create something that is not yet there at the school where they are doing their internship, and which matches what is already there,’ she says. ‘It often turns out that there is nothing at school at all yet.’ With today’s training, she wants to put more focus on the theme of circularity.

CIRCO: ‘make ourselves redundant’

CIRCO provides by far the largest training for companies, around 1500 within the past five years. Teacher training in higher education fits into their strategy of ‘making yourself redundant’. “We hope to reach around sixty teachers in Rotterdam in the coming weeks,” says Roelofs. ‘Until now, we have not been involved in designing with ‘end of life’ in mind, and there are many possibilities there. When you first see it, you wonder: why haven’t I seen it before? We hope that the teachers will also put on those glasses for their students.’

‘We go through raw materials that were made in a few million years in a few hundred years.’

Marcel den Hollander emphasizes the need for this because circularity is still in a sorry state; By far the largest part of the raw materials we use are not recycled, and many products are already ‘waste’ within six months: ‘We use raw materials that were made in a few million years in a few hundred years.’

To find each other on the topic of sustainability

Den Hollander and Bijleveld hope that the training will also ensure that HR teachers find each other better around the theme of sustainability and circularity. ‘That is one of my goals and motivations for introducing this education,’ says Den Hollander. Because there is already a lot going on – minors, electives, workshops, networking, research – but it is something that can be found. ‘We have to create connections so that not everyone does the same thing in their own silo,’ says Bijleveld.

One of these contact points is the university-wide program Sustainable Together. ‘In the associated Teams environment, we have created a channel for the teachers who have now completed the training, so that they can share knowledge and materials.’ A green office from Samen Duurzaam is also being created and a group is working on a Studium Generale, a series of masterclasses on the theme of circularity and energy transition for alumni, students, teachers and companies.

A first for HR Academy

The training is also a first for the HR Academy, the first thematic training it offers; other education courses deal with pedagogy and didactics. ‘It’s a beautiful topic and very important for society,’ says Liesbeth van Os-Biemond from the HR Academy. ‘It’s great that such a mixed group is coming, that’s how you bring people together. Looking beyond your own piece is also very important for students. I am excited to see how the participants experience it and what follow-up we can give on it.’

The training will be repeated more often, you can pre-register here and you will be notified when new dates are known.

Text: Edith van Gameren
photos: Eveline Bijleveld

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