Usually, the only interlopers found on University campus are HBO students, with their proverbial frikandel sandwiches. But yesterday, an entirely different group of outsiders could be found on EUR turf: 400 children who were scampering around campus. Amongst them 40 kids from Groups 6, 7 and 8 of the Julianaschool primary in Gouda.

“Is this all part of the same school?” asks Noortje, one of the pupils. “This school is so big that they even have their own supermarket!” Today, the ‘plus pupils’ from Gouda visited campus to attend an introductory lecture in Philosophy, organised by the Science Hub.


Basisschoolkinderen op de campus 3
Pupils of the Julian School are looking for Erasmus on the EUR campus. Image credit: Boris Berg

The programmes organised by the Science Hub are intended to challenge highly-gifted primary school pupils. In a series of six lessons, young lecturers deal with a range of subjects from the fields of psychology, philosophy, law, medicine, economics and, since recently, gaming.

“Many highly-gifted pupils sail through the regular classes without ever having to really apply themselves. As a result, they often drop out later on as a student,” says Karsten Steehouwer (24, graduate of the Philosophy master programme). “They never had to really sit down and study before, and suddenly they’re confronted with tests for which they have to do some actual studying.”

Abstract thinking

“With philosophy, you’re expected to give a subject a lot of thought, so that’s something you can practice during the fall holiday,” is Steehouwer’s closing remark for his pupils. Steehouwer has been working as a lecturer at the Science Hub for the past four years, and he likes to challenge the children who attend his philosophy classes. “Gifted children’s level of abstract thinking is comparable to that of teenagers, which means they can handle a lot of complex philosophical thought experiments.”

Tossing and turning

The students may have progressed further than most in their cognitive development, but when it comes to emotional development they are still children. “The first time I presented a group of children with the thought experiment that perhaps, all their friends and their parents didn’t actually exist – that they were merely illusions in their minds – I was told later that two of the kids had been tossing and turning, wide awake, for nights on end,” says Steehouwer. “We don’t want that, obviously. That’s why now, I always explain first that it’s only a game that allows you to play with your thoughts – that it isn’t real.”