Next week, ten thousand primary school pupils from the Netherlands and Belgium will start the web-lecture series ‘Wetenschapper in de klas’ (‘Academic in the Classroom’), organized by the University of Groningen (UG). For seven weeks, pupils from Groups 7 & 8 (ages 10-12) will follow online lessons about topics such as the universe, law and philosophy. The UG is the first Dutch university to launch such a programme specifically aimed at primary school children.
In the series, the children will be introduced to academia in its broadest sense: astronomy, law, biology, psychology, medicine, philosophy and history. In each session, an academic will introduce his or her field, after which the pupils will receive a number of assignments. Teachers can easily expand on the programme by adding tasks of their own to the materials offered.
The free-of-charge web lectures have been designed by seven enthusiastic UG academics. Children and academia form a natural match, claims Professor Natasha Maurits, one of the initiators: ‘Children want to know the nature of things and how they function. Academics have the same kind of curiosity, and we love to talk about our field. These online classes allow us to enter the classrooms of ten thousand children, which would otherwise have been unaffordable and logistically impossible.’
Arjen Dijkstra, the project coordinator, is very happy with the large number of applicants. ‘Free online courses for adults, also called Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, have been tremendously popular for some time now. The fact that our junior edition has also achieved this level of popularity exceeds our wildest expectations. Around three hundred schools are now participating, even including some from Flanders. Also, around one hundred parents have signed up with their son or daughter.’
One of the schools that immediately signed up was the Comperio College for highly gifted children in Wolvega. ‘I think these web lectures are a good initiative’, says teacher Ageeth Bos. ‘In this way our pupils are challenged by someone else besides their own teacher for a change. Moreover, it is important that pupils learn to develop an inquisitive attitude. Cooperation between universities and primary schools is very important in this.’
All ten thousand participants will start next week, when physicist Diederik Roest gives a lecture about the universe. The series ends in June, when philosopher Jan Willem Romeijn will challenge the pupils to doubt everything they have learned in the previous lessons, asking the question ‘What do we really know?’. Teachers can still enrol their classes, and individual pupils can still join, together with their parents.
Enrolment for the series is open until 10 April. The lessons start on 4 April. Participation is free of charge. Both teachers and supervised individual pupils can enrol at www.rug.nl/basisscholen
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