“Nurse, pass me the scissors please,” asks Aysha, 10 years old, professionally stretching out his arm to receive the instrument. When he grows up he wants to be “a foot doctor,” but for now, he struggles with the term “orthopedists” when the nurse patiently repeats it to him.
Two floors below, Amir is learning how to apply gel for an ultrasound scan, and to identify the blurry images on the screen.
On this warm Sunday afternoon, there are more than 40 children scattered around the hospital wards, feeling their own heartbeats with oversized stethoscopes and carefully measuring their pulses, getting into little white coats and green caps. Last Sunday, they learned how a general practitioner works, and the next, they will follow the doctors on an ambulance.
The children are enrolled in IMC Weekend School in Amsterdam, which gives them a wide range of opportunities to learn about the world of sciences, the arts and cultural studies with the help of more than 3,000 professionals and volunteers each year. Each Sunday, they gather in one of 10 branches of the school in the Netherlands to learn how a magazine is written and published, or how to recognize the Great Bear constellation in the night sky.
The school, designed by psychologist Heleen Terwijn and founded in collaboration with the trading firm IMC (International Marketmakers Combination), opened its doors in 1998 to underprivileged children of the South-East area of Amsterdam. Now it has 10 schools, 15 career fields, 2,087 alumni, 1,100 students and over 100 private and corporate funders.
To foster the future of science and to help underserved children get greater exposure to science and health education, the Elsevier Foundation will donate $100,000 over four years to IMC Weekend School. The grant supports weekend enrichment modules that not only encourage STM careers among youth from communities that have severely limited educational resources – but also promote positive professional role models.
Among other activities for self-development, the school offers to its network of 2,087 alumni the possibility to teach the younger generations according to the ideals of the Weekend School: “Learn from your elders, pursue your talents and give back.” Their diploma offers an entry ticket to a next-stage trajectory for alumni aged 14 to 18, helping them secure hard-to-find apprenticeships.
“I want to have the biggest possible impact on the world by helping people,” said Mohammed, an alumnus of the Weekend School, in a promotional video for the school.
The grant is part of a larger Elsevier Foundation program Diversity and Inclusion in STM, which includes several partnerships to help underserved children. In London, the White City Maker Challenge will offer 14- to 18-year-olds from one of London’s most disadvantaged urban communities the opportunity to enhance soft skills and engage with cutting-edge science, engineering and design through workshops, afterschool clubs, mentoring, and project teams. The program addresses the need for makers, not only consumers, and helps children build team working skills and self-resilience.
In New York, the city’s most underserved youth will be able to benefit of the After-School STEM Mentoring Program, a highly successful project by the New York Academy of Sciences inspiring more than 1,300 middle schoolers each year. With funding from the Elsevier Foundation, NYAS will expand their program into geographically isolated neighborhoods of New York City, offering curricula for Nutrition, Forensic Science, Molecular Biology and Computer Programming, and introducing environmental subjects through Sustainability and STEM.”
“What all these programs have in common is their commitment to stimulate and encourage the next generation of young scientists,” explained Ylann Schemm, Program Director of the Elsevier Foundation. “We wanted to tackle diversity in science more broadly in our new series of programs.” Through curiosity and hands-on activities, children at the Weekend School are actively exposed to inquiry-based STM (science, technology and medicine) education and encouraged to pursue scientific studies – filling the gap between who they dream to be and who they can be.
"I'm at a place I never thought I'd reach,” said Genesis, an alumnus of the Weekend School, who is shown teaching young people boxing in the promotional video “People tend to judge you on what you can’t do at the time. That’s how the judged me too, but I’ve shown them what I’m capable of.”
The underlying question for all of these programs is simple yet critical: what would happen if all underserved youth could receive the best STM education from the best STM professionals? Then maybe solving the world’s problems wouldn’t seem such a far off goal.