Robots, space, money and war: Kids choose lecture topics as Children and Youth University grows
An experimental series of free children’s lectures has proven so successful that it is returning this year to cover the entire school year, with monthly lectures on topics selected by children themselves.
McMaster Children and Youth University brings together university instructors and young people – most of them in primary and middle school – one Saturday morning each month, to share knowledge and to broaden the community’s access to McMaster.
“This is a valuable, practical and enjoyable way to educate eager young students while showing them some of the opportunities for their own futures,” says McMaster president Patrick Deane, whose office is one of the program’s supporters. “It is our pleasant duty to share our resources and encourage a love for learning, and this has proven to be an excellent way to do both.”
Last year’s pilot program was so popular that most of the five lectures were completely booked in advance.
“Quite a few children came to the lectures prepared with note pads and pencils,” recalls Katrin Scheinemann, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, who leads the program with colleague Sandeep Raha. “One child came 30 minutes early, just to experience the lecture hall. He tried every row and was so excited to just be there.”
The pilot program drew students from 93 schools across an area from Niagara to Toronto. Organizers surveyed the participants and designed the new program around the subjects they wanted to learn about.
All of the topics and lecturers are new for 2012-13. Registration for the new series of eight lectures will all be online, starting Aug. 27. Topics for the upcoming session are:
- Hamilton’s part in the War of 1812
- what happens to your body when you exercise
- how archaeologists find and decipher buried clues
- how robots are used in surgery
- dealing with bullies
- unlocking the mysteries of the night sky
- how genes influence our lives
- how businesses try to attract young consumers
The program is meant to engage young people intellectually and give them an experience that shows them university can be within their reach. Each one-hour session includes a lecture and a round of questions and answers.
The program is available to all children, and organizers hope it will open a pathway to university for families that have never been exposed to post-secondary education.
“This program is unique in that we are delivering actual university-level learning but in a kid-friendly style,” says Raha, also an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics. “We hope that making this type of learning accessible to the community for free will make it easier for all children to make these connections at an early age, and they will continue to be excited about school and better understand how it can impact their lives.”
This year, with new financial support from the Ron and Gina Fraser Foundation, and continuing support from The Office of the President, the Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster Alumni Association, the Faculty of Science and Department of Pediatrics, the program is growing, with lectures running every month from September to May, with a holiday break in December.
There is room in each lecture for a combination of 300 students and adult escorts. (Children under 12 are required to be accompanied by an adult.) Though the program is free, registration is required online at http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/mcyu/registration.html.
More information about the program is available here: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/mcyu/