Science for 5th grade students

Lecture in 5th grade geography class  – Secondary school in the Netherlands

Elenora van Rijsingen

For the first time in six years I went to my old secondary school again, in a small village on the countryside of the Netherlands (OBC Bemmel). Not to follow lectures, but to give one this time. Since my life has changed quite a bit since I left this high school, I wanted to show the current students how I ended up in what I am doing now and teach them a little bit about science in general and about earthquakes. I gave two lectures in the 5th year classes of the geography course. Within one year these students have to choose where and what they want to study at university, so this lecture was a nice opportunity for them to get inspired and to start thinking about their future.

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Elenora explains the various possibilities after finishing high school

I discussed beforehand with the teacher of the two classes about the content of the lecture. She informed me on the current knowledge of the kids, so that I could adjust my lecture to that. We agreed that the lecture should contain both information about the content of my research as information on how it is to be a (PhD) student.

As a first part of the lecture, I explained the students about my motivation to study earth sciences at the University of Utrecht. Because the next step for these students is to go to university, we discussed about the university system and all the possibilities there are. Following that, they learned what it means to be a PhD student and how to become one if they would want to. Because this school is on the countryside, many of the people are more conservative and tend to stay close to home. I tried to encourage them to look further and go study in a different city, or even in a different country. They asked me how I did this, since to them this seems like an impossible task. I gave them some advice on studying abroad as part of an exchange program, or doing a masters of PhD completely abroad.

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Students during the lecture

Finally we discussed about plate tectonics. Which different types of plate contact there exist and how these are related to each other. And since my PhD is all about earthquakes: Along which type of plate boundaries earthquakes occur and how the mechanism of an earthquake (and a possible accompanying tsunami) works.

Afterwards I received feedback from both the geography teacher and the person who is in charge of informing the students about their possibilities after secondary school. They really enjoyed the lecture and thought I not only inspired the students, but also their selves, since they now have more plans to bring old students to the school to act as role models for the current students. Above all, I really enjoyed talking with the students and showing them that within six years, I ended up living in Italy/France and studying earthquakes, something which I would have never imagined before.

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