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Falling balls and hands in formaldehyde

24 April 2014

It was ‘ Girlsday on 24 April, a day to show girls that studying science and technology could be an option for them too. Thirty-four second-year girls from the Werkman College secondary school were served up a special programme at the Der Aa-kerk.

The second-years from the Werkman College
The second-years from the Werkman College

A general introduction to science and the history of the University was followed by a special focus on Aletta Jacobs, who studied Medicine at the University of Groningen and was the first female student in the Netherlands.

The Bernoulli Track
The Bernoulli Track

The girls were then allowed to look round the exhibition, and given some questions to answer on the role of women in science.

The ‘Bernoulli Track’ proved popular with them. Three balls roll down different tracks, and the question is which will arrive at the bottom first. If you want to know the answer, you will need to visit the Der Aa-kerk yourself. ‘Oh hang on a minute, I think we did this in Physics and Chemistry,’ said one of the girls doing the experiment.

Anatomical preparations
Anatomical preparations

A wall of Petrus Camper ’s anatomical preparations inspired a combination of fascination and repulsion. Fluid-preserved hands, children’s arms and foeti could be seen floating in jars. ‘Yuk, why would you want to put that in a jar?’ cried one visitor. ‘You wouldn’t just let a museum display your child?’ said another.

In between all the experiments, they formed pairs to find the answers to questions such as ‘When did Aletta Jacobs study?’ and ‘What kind of research did Liesbeth de Vries carry out?’ They had half an hour before they needed to return to the chancel of the church, to listen to the answers being read out. The winners had seven right.

A crowd at the ageing machine
A crowd at the ageing machine

As they made their way to the exit, the ageing machine suddenly caught the girls’ attention. This takes your photo, and produces an edited version on the screen that shows what you will look like in 30 years’ time. The thirteen and fourteen-year-olds were eager to find out.

Girlsday is the initiative of VHTO , the national expertise centre for girls/women and science/technology.

Last modified:10 June 2015 2.56 p.m.

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