University is only for adults? The Kids’ University program at the University of Mannheim has been proving the opposite for 10 years now: During this time, hundreds of children learned in a playful way how to dance like a knight, for example, or what Walt Disney and the Ice Queen have in common, what computer science is, what rights children have, why children are poor, what advertising does to us, and much more. Each semester on three dates, children between the ages of 8 and 12 can attend the lectures and workshops on the first Saturday of each month.
Learning through play is the focus of the events. The instructors arouse the children’s interest with topics that would not be on the curriculum at school. The speakers – all professors and lecturers at the University of Mannheim – make each lecture interactive, involve the children, provide examples from the children’s lives, and include current (sometimes political) topics: For example, there was the lecture “Fridays for the Future?!” which discussed whether the strikes actually make a difference. In addition, there are also workshops where the children can experiment themselves. In the past semesters, for example, there were the workshops “Be the GPS – an interactive orientation game” or “Truth will out,” where the children learned how a lie detector works and were even allowed to try it out.
The first Kids’ University was launched by the Communications Department and Studium Generale in the fall of 2012 as part of the Schlossfest with the support of the then Vice President for Research, Equal Opportunity and Early-Stage Researchers, Prof. Eva Martha Eckkrammer. The lectures and workshops are designed to introduce children to academic topics as early as possible and to provide access to science through play. Another goal is to get the children of non-academics excited about the “cosmos” of university at an early age, to break down any fears they may have, and to show them that studying is something feasible and possible.
Text: Luisa Gebhardt / October 2022