Gaming, Economics, or maybe Medicine after all?

Vera Bosch

Is it possible to live without a brain? How long does it take to study to be a doctor? These are two of the questions professor Peter van der Spek received by some of the 110 elementary-school children who attended his Junior College at Erasmus MC. Erasmus University Rotterdam offers classes such as this one across many disciplines. February 6th saw the start of a series of classes on Medicine at the Erasmus MC.

During this first talk Peter van der Spek, professor in Bio Informatics, discussed today’s many clinical profiles, and explained what the Erasmus MC can do about them. He didn’t, however, only discuss the role of doctors within the hospital, because “it’s not only doctors who work here. It’s also lab technicians, people in logistics, secretariats that focus on administrative issues – there’s all sorts of jobs at the hospital.” Van der Spek explained: “These sorts of projects are very important, especially for children in this age group. It helps them paint a picture of what they could be, later in life, and what they’d want to do.”

“It’s not only doctors who work here. It’s also lab technicians or people in logistics"

Prof.dr. Peter van der Spek
Afdelingshoofd Bio Informatics, Erasmus MC

Participating schools get to choose out of a variety of disciplines: Philosophy, Economics, Law, Gaming, Psycholog and Medicine. After the opening talk will follow a 6-week curriculum where the children will be taught by student teachers. Student-teacher Wouter van Wessel elaborates: “When giving the ‘medicine’ version of the Junior College, we consider – together with the students – the different elements that make up the field of medicine. For example, we’ll be asking questions like, what does an ENT specialist do? Or what kind of disease cancer is, exactly?”

Stimulating students for science

Erasmus Junior College is an initiative of the ‘Wetenschapsknooppunt’ by Eramus University Rotterdam, which aims at stimulating curiosity and learning among children of elementary and primary-school levels. This is done not just by offering in-class material, but also by welcoming the schools at the university itself.

One of the teachers of the Prinses Julianaschool in Gouda – Rianne – says the initiative works very well. “You definitely see that their interest is piqued. I saw it especially in the classes on law. There were some pretty important questions asked about how a person should be trialed, and that really got the children thinking. The students who participate in these classes are kids who aren’t challenged enough by the regular elementary-school curriculum. Erasmus Junior College challenges them more: they have to go that little extra mile, and you can really see this motivates and encourages them.”