Research into cookie baking

Ronja Ponsteen is a student teacher at the NIEUWSgierig project
Beginning of the lesson
Juan is researching water quality.

Ronja Ponsteen (19) is currently doing her final year of criminology and her first year of law at Erasmus University Rotterdam, not exactly fields of study one would automatically associate with teaching a class of children. Still, she is very happy that she can do this work in addition to her studies. "Not only because it is fun to do something for others, but also because I learn a lot. About other people, other cultures and about myself."

Ronja first encountered teaching when the first Ukrainian refugees arrived in her village Lopik in 2022. People were urgently needed to provide education for the refugee children. "Since I already had some experience as a leader in the scouts, I was asked to go to the classroom with a Ukrainian teacher. There I discovered that I actually really enjoyed working with children. I then signed up with the “Wetenschapsknooppunt”, and of the various projects they provide in elementary and secondary schools, the NIEUWSgierig project appealed to me the most. Mainly because it aims to make children wonder about the world and ask questions about it.

Sean investigates monsters
Sean investigates monsters.

"I've been doing this work for almost two years now and I still really enjoy it. It is so informative. The worldview of children who have not been in the Netherlands for so long is really refreshing. The most simple things are suddenly very valuable. They are full of questions and with NIEUWSgierig we teach them to ask those questions and also get them answered. For example, they ask "How does a car drive?", "What is inside a laptop?", "How does a windmill generate energy?" or "How do you train a service dog? Very basic things, which you yourself don't always have a comprehensive answer to.

Doing research together

"The children choose one topic per group that they find interesting. Often this is something they already know a thing or two about. Then together we go over how best to research that according to the steps of the research cycle. For example, is it something you can find on the Internet? Or maybe you can do a test for it? Can you interview people for it? The last group I had consisted mainly of Ukrainian children. For Ukrainians, food is much more important than for the average Dutch person. They think we have crazy food and spend far too little time preparing it. They also have quite a sweet tooth. So we got to talking about baking cookies and how new cookies are developed. Then you try to turn that into a research question together. That starts with watching videos on the internet. What ingredients do you need? What different kinds of cookies are there? What is needed if you want to design your own cookie? In the last lesson, I brought cookies and decorations and the kids started decorating them with their own designs.

''At the end of the seven weeks, you really bond with the students. Then they want a hug and a picture with you''

"In the NIEUWSgierig project, it is especially important that the children have a safe learning environment and that they are really seen. Therefore, in addition to learning new knowledge and skills, we focus a lot on personal contact. And of course they all pick up Dutch words and learn things from each other. This way they get to know life in the Netherlands, the world around them and other people in a very natural way. And the best part: they learn to be curious and ask questions, despite everything that some of them have been through. At the end of the seven weeks, you really bond with the students. Then they want a hug and a picture with you.''

Group photo with the whole class
Group photo with the whole class.

Valuable contribution

"I myself also learn a lot each time. About different cultures and diverse topics.   For example, I also didn't know what was inside a computer and how to make pink glazed cakes. That makes learning together a lot of fun. Moreover, through the “Wetenschapsknooppunt” you come into contact with all kinds of other teachers, so you develop a broader view of the world. I notice that it has made me more confident, because being in front of a class demands quite a bit from you.

"I find the NIEUWSgierig project very valuable because you really mean something to those students. Some have significant problems and in regular education they don't get the personal attention and guidance they really need. With us they can take their first steps in a foreign country at their own level and in a safe environment. That is why it is so important that we can continue to do this and that our donors continue to support us. With NIEUWSgierig we invest in the talent of the future."

More information

Each year, NIEUWSgierig is offered to one hundred children in the Rotterdam region. The project is made possible by the “Wetenschapsknooppunt” of Erasmus University Rotterdam. They bring science into the classroom through various lesson series and activities based on inquiry-based learning, for students between the ages of 8 and 18. Read here which other projects are organized for primary and secondary education by the “Wetenschapsknooppunt”.

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