Universiteit Leiden

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Kids become real scientists with Lil'Scientist

Children are perfect scientists: they are bursting with curiosity, they want to know how the world works and they go exploring every day. Yet many children barely get a chance to be engaged in science. A number of scientists from the Young Academy want to change that. They have received 150,000 euros from NWO to launch the Lil'Scientist project to give children a taste of real scientific research.

The principal investigator of this project is Eddie Brummelman from the University of Amsterdam. From Leiden University, Hanneke Hulst (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences), Frans Snik, Margaret Gold and Anne Land-Zandstra (Faculty of Science) are affiliated.

In citizen science, citizens actively participate in scientific research. ‘There are hardly any citizen science projects for children yet,’ says Frans Snik, astronomer and co-founder of the Citizen Science Lab in Leiden. ‘And some target groups, such as underprivileged families, we do not reach sufficiently anyway.’

For Lil'Scientist, scientists will develop all kinds of experiments together with the children of the IMC Weekend School (see box). By doing so, children can participate in real scientific research in an interactive and accessible way. Together with the scientists, the children then analyse and publish the data they have collected.

The IMC Weekend School

The IMC Weekendschool Foundation provides supplementary education for young people aged ten and over, in places in the Netherlands where it is most needed. The Weekend School operates at 63 locations across the country. The subjects at the Weekend School are offered by professionals, such as scientists with a wide variety of expertise. The Weekend School's main goal is to offer children from all backgrounds a perspective on a broad spectrum of career possibilities, including science.

Snik: 'This project fits perfectly with the Citizen Science Lab in Leiden: Our goal is to build a citizen science network throughout Leiden and throughout the Netherlands. A project like Lil'Scientist, where we establish that together with the target group, is incredibly instructive.'

Win-win situation

'Lil'Scientist goes further than merely telling the kids about science,' says Snik. 'Through citizen science, children can actually participate. They learn how science works and get to make their own decisions.'

This not only provides an unforgettable experience for those children, but also offers scientists a great opportunity to collect all kinds of data on a large scale. Together with the children, we can reach places and people that we would otherwise never reach. We therefore hope to achieve new scientific results, which are only possible thanks to their enthusiastic contributions and boundless thinking.'

‘I hereby challenge all my colleagues to submit project ideas'

Children are in charge

‘We already have some initial projects in the pipeline,’ says Snik. ‘Think of linguistics, biology, archaeology and psychology. Professor Hanneke Hulst is currently working on an experiment at the interface of neuroscience and philosophy.’ Snik himself would like to develop a project on astronomy and light pollution. ‘I hereby challenge all my colleagues to submit project ideas! But the most exciting thing is that we will put the children in charge and together we will develop a project that comes from their own questions and curiosity.’

More information about the project, or want to register an idea? Contact Frans Snik or Hanneke Hulst, or email the Citizen Science Lab.

Project Team Lil'Scientist

Land-Zandstra and Snik are both co-founders of the Leiden Citizen Science Lab, which is coordinated by Margaret Gold.

Collaboration partners: IMC Weekendschool, New Scientist, NEMO Science Museum, P. Hulst (ZZP), Stichting Brein in Beeld 


NWO | NWA awards funding to nine innovative science communication projects

Nine new projects on science communication are receiving grants from NWO from the National Science Agenda (NWA). The organization announced this in a press release at the end of June. The consequences of heat waves on the living environment, ADHD in young people, life in the DDR. The subjects of these projects are diverse, but have the same goal: to make science accessible to a wide audience in order to strengthen the connection between science and society.

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