On Thursday 21 March, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) invited pupils from the fifth and sixth year to spend the day as students on the Etterbeek campus. The event was possible thanks to the VUB Kinderuniversiteit, or children’s university. Dedicated researchers introduced the pupils to science in a series of unique workshops perfectly aligned with children’s curiosity. The university has consciously chosen to work with schools, with a special focus on Brussels.

“A day to remember!”, “a whole world opened up”, “a fun and educational day where children discover that learning and studying can take many forms”: ​ just some of the responses from teachers and classes in previous years to the creative workshops organised by the VUB Kinderuniversiteit.

The “students” started their campus day in the lecture theatre, where they were prepared for a day full of workshops led by VUB researchers. There was a varied programme featuring both natural and human sciences. Children learned about the wonders and the dangers of volcanoes, built small robots, learned what their ideal school would look like, and much more. After an exciting day of fascinating workshops, the pupils graduated from the Kinderuniversiteit, a moment that was celebrated with a diploma presentation by Nadine Engels, vice-rector for Education at VUB.

Science in primary education is not straightforward, given that the majority of teachers are not specialised in specific subjects. The VUB offers support via the Kinderuniversiteit workshops and classroom material to encourage teachers to get their pupils excited about science. Motivating young children to think about working in science is important, as choices about study paths are made early in their school career.

The Kinderuniversiteit workshop programme resumed in spring. Classes can register for individual sessions, in which researchers go to Brussels schools or pupils visit the campuses in Jette and Etterbeek. VUB Kinderuniversiteit also provides child-friendly lesson packages, available free of charge on its website. These ready-to-use packages enable teachers to work on science in the classroom independently.

VUB Kinderuniversiteit is part of the VUB’s wider research outreach and communication operations. It has previously launched projects such as the Brusselse Wetenschapsbox, Brussels Science Festival and Kinderuniversiteit on Tour, to get children interested in science. The VUB has reached thousands of young people this way.