Children’s Conference in Groningen

Children’s Conference in Groningen

From June 19 to 21 2019 the international conference ‘Religious Heritage in a Diverse Europe’ took place in Groningen, in the north of The Netherlands. The Pre-University Academy (Scholierenacademie) of the University of Groningen and the Groningen Historic Churches Foundation organised a parallel Children’s Conference on Wednesday June 19. 

This Children’s Conference was especially designed for children aged ten and eleven. Almost 60 children from three schools attended the conference, that took place in the Der Aa-church in Groningen. The Der Aa-church is situated in the heart of the city. The children were welcomed in the middle of the church, where they could pick up their participants badge. After an introduction about what a conference is, the children were presented with a special program including four different workshops, all related to (religious) heritage.

One was organized by Dr Brenda Bartelink (University of Groningen). Bartelink studies questions of identity, tradition and culture. She discussed these topics, in relation to heritage, with the visiting children. In her workshop, the children went on a quest for their own identity and what that ‘identity’ exactly means. For this the children decorated blank paper dolls. Based on the decorating choices made by the children, Brenda asked questions about their identity. Bartelink will use the results of this workshop in further research. 

Next: a challenging game on the history of the Der Aa-church, called Key keepers (Sleutelbewaarders in Dutch), lead by Inge Basteleur of the Groningen Historic Churches Foundation. For this game, that was developed for several churches, the children were divided in three teams. Each team had a mini church that was locked with four keys. By answering multiple choice questions about the church, the mini church could be unlocked… This game is a playful way of getting to know the building and it teaches the children to look closer at the heritage around them

With student Marianne (University of Groningen) the children went on a science date. She took them on an expedition along a number of tombstones in the Der Aa-church. The children discovered that tombstones not only tell who is buried underneath. You can derive much more information from them, for instance about the city, the economy and about society. 

Also part of the program was a tour over the vaults of the church, with Agmar van Rijn (Groningen Historic Churches Foundation) as tour guide. The vaults are built in the middle ages, which makes them quite mysterious. Climbing them is like stepping back in time. The tour was exciting, and even a bit scary to some children. The highest point is almost 30 meters high, from which you can look through ‘the eye of god’ down into the church. From the right angle you can see the pulpit: the vicar is always watched by God. 

The young participants thought and talked about various aspects of religious heritage during these different parts of the program. It was a great introduction for them in the world of research and religious heritage. This kind of introduction is very important, because these children are the future care-takers of our heritage

At the end of the conference kids were asked several questions and these were some of their answers:

  • If you could travel in time, to which era would you travel? The building of the church: I’m curious to know how they did it! (Lenthe)
  • Do you think you can have a sleepover in this church? No, because it echoes too much. (Itske)
  • Can you paint or plaster this church in a pink color? No, because it is a monument and you’re not allowed to ruin it. (Hidde)

Inge Basteleur, Education Project Coordinator at Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken

Pictures by Ariska Bonnema

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