On the 27th of March 2019, the department of Immunology welcomed 48 children from the IMC weekendschool in Delfshaven, Rotterdam.
The Dutch IMC Weekend School provides a three year Sunday curriculum to children that live in Rotterdam Delfshaven to broaden their perspectives and increase their self-confidence (www.imcweekendschool.nl). Children spend four to five Sundays per field of work, such as the Rotterdam harbour, architecture, the justice system, and journalism to get acquainted with its content, and job opportunities at different levels of education.
The course medicine is part of the first year curriculum of the weekendschool and is given to children of about 10 years old. The department of Immunology is hosting one of these lessons, already since 2007. We have an active program to show the children how the immune system works, by an interactive presentation and educational games, and by demonstrating the practice of working in a laboratory. The kids are dressed up in lab coats, gloves and safety glasses as real scientists, and perform blood group typing, learn how to pipet and study blood cells using the microscope.
The day is always a big success for the kids who will experience a laboratory in reality instead of from cartoons, making the possibilities of working in life sciences or medicine somewhat more visible and concrete. For many of the children, it is an eye opener that job opportunities are multifold, and do not necessarily require university training. At least one child who has participated in our program has chosen to become a laboratory technician, demonstrating the impact of the program.
Also for the guest-teachers it is an excellent challenge to explain the function of the immune system in children’s language. It is really fun to answer all the children’s questions which are surprising, unexpected and often remarkably sophisticated, like: “Can white blood cells move? And how does a cell break down a bug?” and “Am I still protected against microbes when my tonsils have been removed?”
The day is coordinated by Marie-José Melief and Ruth Huizinga.