• One day at the Kinderuniversität. How exciting! Photo: Mark Römisch
    One day at the Kinderuniversität. How exciting!
  • We learned about physics. Photo: Mark Römisch
    We learned about physics.
  • We built our own Bauhaus-furniture. Photo: Mark Römisch
    We built our own Bauhaus-furniture.
  • It is simply a matter of perspective… Photo: Mark Römisch
    It is simply a matter of perspective…
  • Also, refreshment was provided. Photo: Mark Römisch
    Also, refreshment was provided.
  • We met a real astronaut who taught us about living in space. Photo: Mark Römisch
    We met a real astronaut who taught us about living in space.
  • ...made new friends Photo: Mark Römisch
    ...made new friends
  • …and had a lot of fun! Photo: Mark Römisch
    …and had a lot of fun!
  • And after all the exciting events we finally got our Kinderuniversität-diploma! Photo: Mark Römisch
    And after all the exciting events we finally got our Kinderuniversität-diploma!
  • Thanks to our professors! Photo: Mark Römisch
    Thanks to our professors!
  • And thanks to the Kinderuni-team! Photo: Mark Römisch
    And thanks to the Kinderuni-team!

Kinderuni @ MIT 2019 - "A WORLD OF LEARNING" in Cambridge, MA

When children think about our world

On November 1, 2019, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) opened its doors to over 400 kids who came to attend the Goethe-Institut’s Kinderuni.

What would the world be like if our children were given the chance to rewrite the concept of fairness? How big is space? And do our eyes also grow as we get bigger? These and many other questions were explored by around 400 children in Boston on November 1, 2019 at the “A WORLD OF LEARNING” event staged by the Goethe-Institut’s digital Kinderuniversity.
 
Supported by scientists from the MIT, well-known German TV professor Christoph Biemann (Die Sendung mit der Maus) and the German physicist and ESA astronaut Reinhold Ewald (via a Skype link), the youngsters were able to research answers to their questions in the MIT’s laboratories. Organized by the Goethe-Institut Washington, DC as part of the Year of German-American Friendship, ten lectures and seminars gave them age-appropriate knowledge about specific aspects of our lives. The topics addressed included “Space and Space Travel“, “Environment and Sustainability” and “Philosophy”. In addition, there were some exciting experiments that the MIT scientists had prepared especially for the kids – tailored to their small eyes and ears. “The best experience for me was to talk to the astronauts about what it feels like to be up in space”, enthused ten-year-old Gladys after the event. “Astronauts are heroes and one day I’ll be an astronaut too”. Perhaps we should make a mental note of the name Gladys...
 
So what is the best way to raise philosophical questions with children? And to do so in such a fascinating way that they will voluntarily give up their breaktime? This is exactly what the philosopher Anna Laura Edelhoff succeeded in doing: she used a cake to explain to the kids what “fair” means. Who gets the biggest pieces and why? During a lively discussion, which saw all 200 participants with their hands up, all wanting to have their say, a number of criteria were defined: “need”, “achievement”, “fairness”, and “ownership”. But is this really what is meant by fair? Ultimately, Laura came up with the solution: it was her birthday so she insisted that the cake belonged to her – that is to say she was the owner of the cake and could divide it up as she saw fit. So who would now get the biggest slice?
 
Ten-year-old Liang liked the Bauhaus workshop best: “Building my own chair, especially one with such an unusual style – that was really exciting. I could even sit on it at the end”. Which cannot always be taken for granted with Bauhaus-style seats.
 
Rick was most enthusiastic about the robot he had built, which he named “Sam”: “He could actually move all on his own, and do stuff that I had told him to do.” The eight-year-old was very upset to learn that he was not allowed to take “Sam” – which he had developed under MIT supervision – home with him.

So what exactly is the difference between learning at school and learning at university? To what extent are children able to absorb knowledge differently – in a way that involves laughter, joy, and experimentation? Thanks to his TV show “Sendung mit der Maus”, Christoph Biemann has decades of experience in this area: “Children are by nature inquisitive and have a huge thirst for knowledge. If you approach them in the right way, it is very easy to get them lastingly enthusiastic about things. The Kinderuniversity is an ideal tool for this because it combines fun and voluntary learning with natural childhood curiosity.”
 
The graduation ceremony at the end proved just how right he is. 400 graduates proudly tossed their little caps into the air. All of the young scientists have already promised to come to the next Kinderuni, too.
 
So what was all that about fairness again? After the event, the father of young Nathan, who had enthusiastically joined in the discussion about the cake, made the following remarks to the Goethe-Institut: “I just wanted to let you know how impressed I was by the event. My son wanted to talk to me about fairness on the way home. It was a very long car journey!” This may make questions of upbringing somewhat complicated in family life...


Angelika Rockel, 2019
 

Children have thousands of questions that may sound straightforward enough but can sometimes prove very tricky to answer. That’s why the Goethe-Institut created the digital Kinderuniversity, a free online platform that is open to all children – no matter where they live or which school they attend. The German digital Kinderuniversity was launched in the USA in 2019. It provides information and education for children aged eight to twelve. It gives young scientists the chance to find out the answers to questions for themselves – about natural phenomena, for instance – while at the same time learning their first words in German.  This fun online learning environment reflects the basic structure of a university: the faculties on offer, namely “Humankind”, “Nature”, and “Technology”, as well as the carefully selected video sequences, reflect the world as experienced by young students.


LECTURES
  • Professor Christoph Biemann (Sendung mit der Maus): Experiment-Show
  • Professor Dr. Ana Laura Edelhoff (German philosopher, Oxford): What is Just?
  • Professor Dr. Reinhold Ewald (German physicist & ESA astronaut): Space Exploration
  • Professor Dr. Joachim Hecker (German scientist, SPIEGEL): Jo Hecker Science Show
  • Prof. Camille J. Moore (American Emcee): Event Emcee

SEMINARS / WORKSHOPS
  • Bauhaus Design Experts from Germany: Build your own chair!
  • Dr. Joachim Hecker (German scientist): Sustainability Workshop
  • Dr. Ana Laura Edelhoff (German philosopher): What is Just? Seminar
  • Shodekeh (American professional beatboxer): Beatbox Walking Tour (use of German consonants to learn beatboxing)
  • HIGH STAKES (American juggling artists): What’s the PLAN(T)? (juggling in combination with the topic sustainability)
  • MIT Museum: „Scribble Bots“ Workshop
  • MIT List Visual Arts Center: „Sketch Tour“ to the List Visual Arts Center
“A World of Learning” was a joint event hosted by Wunderbar Together and the Goethe-Institut at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

​Many thanks to the event co-sponsor MIT CMS/W, an innovative humanities program that applies critical analysis, collaborative research, and design across media arts, forms, and practices. 

Our gratitude also goes to the MIT Museum, the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) for their partnership and contributions to the event.

Target Audience

  • Elementary & middle school students (grades 1-7)
  • Parents, school teachers, university professors
  • Media outlets in the U.S. & Germany
Participation is open to all and completely free of cost

Goals

  • excite children for STE(A)M subjects
  • increase social outreach for scientific fields
  • combine STE(A)M and German
  • strengthen the focus on research in schools
  • motivate the researchers of tomorrow! 

Format

  • Modular event with free participation
  • Lectures for children by prominent guests from the USA and Germany
  • A variety of stations & workshops
  • Performances by artists and scientists
  • Giveaways, prizes and exciting competitions

Event sponsors & partners

Contact

Dr. Anne Schönhagen
Director Language Programs North America
Goethe-Institut Washington
E-Mail-Address Anne.Schoenhagen@goethe.de 

Allison Paul
Language Program Officer
Goethe-Institut Washington
E-Mail-Address Allison.Paul@goethe.de

Torben Hennigs
Project Manager
Year of German American Friendship
Goethe-Institut Washington
E-Mail-Address torben.hennigs.extern@goethe.de

Questions? Please contact us! 
kinderuni-USA@goethe.de

Project partners

WDR-Logo       Deutsche Welle

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