‘Why Isn’t the World Triangular?’: HSE Opens University for Kids
Begun in September, the joint project of HSE University and Moscow’s Polytechnic Museum traditionally lasts until May. HSE News Service attended some classes of the university, where we learned, alongside the university’s young students, how to cross a tightrope without falling, what the nature of mutations is, and how the Russian language is structured.
The University for Kids is a venue for kids aged 7-14 who have a love for science and a curiosity about their surroundings. This year, Vera, aged 12, attended the University for Kids for the first time. ‘We talked about the structure of Russian—how its rules and norms came to be—and it was interesting,’ she says of her class.
Employees of the Polytechnic Museum got the idea for a Kids’ University project at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw. In light of the format’s popularity in Warsaw, they decided to give it a try in Moscow and began working with HSE University six years ago to start a similar project.
Deputy Director of the Polytechnic Museum, Vera Shengelia, says that the museum is pleased to be working with HSE on the project. ‘HSE University is the best university we work with. And parents who bring their kids to us want to get to know the university, oftentimes with an eye towards future admission.’
The project is growing rapidly: if the first classes of the University for Kids had enrollments of less than a hundred, this year the university will welcome almost eight hundred little Muscovites. Students are divided into groups according to age: in each group, they attend lectures, academic workshops of their choice, and developmental classes.
Elena, mother of 9-year-old Misha, admits that, at first, she was skeptical of the ‘lack of a rigorous curriculum’, However, now she sees how the curriculum’s diversity is greatly beneficial. ‘After each lesson, my son says, “This is so interesting! I’m going to study this more!” And this is how it is with everything he studies there: from cloning plants to learning languages. He is now at an age when he is curious to study all the facets of science, to delve into everything.’
This time Misha delved in physics. Complex sciences are taught to kids aged 9-10 using real-life examples. At the workshop, ‘How to Walk a Tightrope and Not Fall’, kids used art to learn about mass and balance, and then learned how to work with their own weight.
The classes for older kids are no less exciting. One group learned about how a language can change from Boris Iomdin, an Assistant Professor at the HSE School of Linguistics, while another group learned about the nature of mutations from Vera Mukhina, a specialist at the Bioinformatics Training and Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Director for Occupational and Gifted Student Guidance, HSE University
Together with the Polytechnic Museum, we created an innovative platform for young students from all over Moscow. At HSE University, students are immersed in a real university environment, and they get to know real professors and researchers. It is important for us that the University for Kids helps kids find out what they’re interested in and what they want to do—what they want to be when they grow up. We are doing our best to make the University for Kids project on Pokrovka a point of attraction for kids and their parents.
The university’s educational tracks change from year to year so that the course themes do not repeat and students can attend the university for several years. Though the curriculum is developed at the Polytechnic Museum, the classes are taught by HSE professors and invited specialists. The theme is always a children's question: ‘Why Isn’t the World Triangular?’, ‘What's Inside an Elephant?’, ‘Where Do Dreams Come From?’ The themes cover a wide range of sciences: from biology and entrepreneurship to energy and electricity. But regardless of the theme, the main task of the university remains unchanged: to get kids interested in science, think creatively, work well in teams, and view the world with a critical eye.
HSE psychologists have studied how the presence or absence of siblings, as well as birth order, affect children’s ability to maintainpersonal boundaries. The results showed that only children and second-born children have the strongest sense of personal boundaries, while first-born children have the least. However, as children become adults, their ability to balance between their own needs and those of others becomes determined more by gender.
Educators do not always deal with student aggression in the most effective manner. Sometimes teachers resort to severe and unsystematic methods that only make the bullying worse. According to researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Prevention of Asocial Behavior, the problem requires a comprehensive approach: aggression prevention programmes need to be incorporated into educational policy, and, in turn, schools need to foster supportive psychological climate and trust between teachers and students.
Normally, parents help shape their children's attitudes towards money. In their study "Adults' Perceptions of Pocket Money and Cash Rewards as Tools of Children's Economic Socialization," Alina Pishnyak and Natalia Khalina compare parental attitudes towards pocket money in the U.K., Germany, and Moscow, Russia. Their findings concerning Moscow are based on data from the Moscow and Muscovitessurvey of 3,109 adult respondents, of whom 75% were parents, conducted by the Institute of Humanitarian Megacity Development in 2014. According to the study's authors, most parents begin educating their children about money at the age of six.
Women who have moved to another part of the country tend to have higher fertility than those who stay in the same community all their lives. Relocation often improves a woman's life circumstances and broadens her choice of marriage partner, thus supporting her reproductive intentions, according to Svetlana Biryukova, Senior Research Fellow of the HSE Center for Studies of Income and Living Standards, and Alla Tyndik, Leading Research Fellow at the RANEPA.