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6 February 2004

Children's University Goes Online

Internet project starts Saturday, 7 February at www.kindernetzuni.de—Joint press release by the University of Heidelberg and the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper

Heidelberg Children's University, a joint project by the University and the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper (RNZ), has been put on a dual footing. The internet project starts up on Saturday, 7 February at www.kindernetzuni.de

Back in October 2003, the Heidelberg Children's University first saw the light of day as a joint event run by the University and the RNZ newspaper. On that weekend four lectures by members of the teaching staff of the University caught the imagination of over 800 children. Renowned professors explained to their youthful student audience why blood is red, why gummi bears can be both yummy and healthy, what fossils have to tell us and how the ancient Greeks invented writing.

The response was enthusiastic but a degree of regret remained. It was the regret of all those unable to attend, older brothers and sisters, parents and many others who would like nothing better than to have scientific and scholarly concerns explained to them in simple terms. Of course, the RNZ with its pictures and reports was able to give a graphic account of the Children's University. But when we've read the paper we tend to throw it in the bin, and that's it.

That was when the idea took shape to find a more lasting format to supplement the lectures in the lecture-hall. And for children in the 21st century the obvious answer was to put the Children's University on the internet.

The Project

In the hitherto unique project "Children's University Online", the lectures are not only adapted for the internet and provided with illustrations. There are lots of other features as well. The adult team headed by RNZ editor Kirsten Baumbusch, scientist Stefan Zeeh and children's author and humanities graduate Andrea Liebers have provided pen-portraits of the scholars behind the articles, conducted interviews and added lexicon links based on the lectures that assist in deepening one's knowledge of the subject in hand in a way that a lecture alone cannot do.

The Children's Editorial Board

In addition, an editorial board has been formed made up exclusively of youngsters. Just like their adult counterparts, these boys and girls assist in ensuring that the online Children's University keeps on growing and gets more and more exciting all the time. On the basis of the articles and reports, interesting aspects of the subjects are given in-depth treatment, including such things as whether there are living fossils, what a blood bank is, what exactly happens when we get stung by a gnat and whether there are gummi bears for vegetarians. Also, there is first-hand information and picture material on how to rear triops (primeval shrimps) at home.

These two sectors of the online Children's University are accessible for anyone who clicks www.kindernetzuni.de. It's definitely worth looking by at regular intervals because the amount of information there is growing all the time so that in the end a genuine "knowledge cosmos" will be available.

The Forum

Then there's a third sector, the interactive part. This is only accessible for children between 8 and 12. They have to register with the Forum, then they are given a student number and a password. After that they can register with the online Children's University and join in to their hearts' content. They can indicate important questions that have not been touched on and issues they would like to have dealt with in detail, they can voice criticisms, make suggestions for further research and take part in writing workshops on the various subjects. The idea here is to link up scientific knowledge with exciting stories. Items in the story-telling programme include "A Day in the Land of the Dinosaurs", a letter from a frustrated apprentice in the days of the ancient Greeks or "Body Alarm: My Human Has Cut Himself". The five best stories will be featured on the homepage of Children's University online.

Funding

The online version of the Children's University would not be possible without the assistance of the RegioSponsoring programme of the Walldorf software company SAP. The people in charge there found the idea so appealing and innovative that they decided to finance the online Children's University project. A sincere word of thanks is definitely in order.

Please address any inquiries to
team@kindernetzuni.de

or
Kirsten Baumbusch
Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung
Neugasse 2
D-69117 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/519234
baumbusch@rnz.de

Journalists' inquiries can also be addressed to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/index.html


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