"The students had so many questions that I couldn't possibly answer them all"

Professors visit primary schools in Utrecht

On Wednesday 20 March, over a hundred professors cycled to primary schools in Utrecht for Meet the Professor. They introduced grade 6, 7 and 8 pupils to science. Professor Franck Meijboom visited the Kohnstammschool and got the pupils thinking about how we live together with animals.

Een kind staat gekleed in een te grote toga op een tafel voor een klas met kinderen. Naast haar staat de hoogleraar. De juf maakt een foto.
Een van de leerlingen in de toga van hoogleraar Franck Meijboom.

Franck Meijboom engaged with the class on ethics and how we as humans treat different animal species. This is something he deals with every day as a professor of Sustainable Animal Stewardship. "There are almost nine times as many domestic and farm animals living in the Netherlands than people. That calls for a conversation about how we treat animals and how we can do that in a sustainable and responsible way. For example, we treat pigs and cows differently from dogs and cats. That was one of the things I wanted to talk about with the class."

"We treat pigs and cows differently from dogs and cats"

Dropping a pencil

Meijboom made the concept of 'ethics' understandable to the students. "You also do something with ethics, for example by making agreements about when you can talk or go to the toilet," he said. He drops a pencil on the floor and asks the class if that is good or not. "Maybe the tip has broken, or someone will trip over the pencil later. That's what ethics is about. What is right and desirable? What are the consequences of my behaviour? And what does that say about me as a person?"

Wasp sting and cat scratch

Meijboom also had the children put stickers, indicating their position in relation to different animal species. In this way, he gauges what is going on in the group and then discusses it. Meijboom: "Some pupils had a negative experience with certain animal species, for example they were stung by a wasp or scratched by a cat. That affected the location of their stickers. I explained that our dealings with animals can change. Ten years ago, for example, we thought differently about the wolf than we do now, since it is turning up more and more often in Dutch nature. As a society, we have different and changing opinions about that."

"Some students had a negative experience because they were stung by a wasp or scratched by a cat"

Many questions

Meijboom looks back on his visit positively. "There was a lot of common ground between the class and the subject. The students had so many questions that it was impossible for me to answer them all. I also enjoyed hearing the different opinions on different animal species. The students were able to substantiate their opinions well."


Een hoogleraar staat in toga voor een klas met kinderen en wijst naar de vraag op het witte bord.
Franck Meijboom introduces students to science.

Over Meet the Professor

During Meet the Professor, pupils from Utrecht primary schools can ask a professor for an hour. In this way, Utrecht University introduces pupils to science. In this way, we reduce the distance between the university and society. Together, the professors reach 2,500 upper-class pupils from all walks of life.

The pupils do not know in advance which professor will visit them, so they try to find out. They receive golden envelopes with hints and do all kinds of assignments. In preparation for the visit, they also get to send the professor mail with questions and a self-made drawing of what they think the professor looks like.

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