Dutch students to spread knowledge about viruses

Dutch students to spread knowledge about viruses

Over 150 high school pupils and 100 elementary school pupils will teach their peers how they can guard against the dangers of infectious diseases. They must decide for themselves exactly how they will go about doing it, for example by producing leaflets or videos, using social media or maybe in a totally new way. The pupils are participating in the Viruskenner (‘Virus Expert’) project, an initiative of Erasmus MC. On Friday, February 17 at 2pm the students will come to the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam for the kick-off of the project.

Worldwide, thousands of people die every day from infectious diseases like malaria, AIDS and dengue fever. Infectious diseases occur in the Netherlands, too: influenza and Q fever are a couple of examples. The best way to combat these diseases to spread knowledge about them. “Education is invaluable,” says Eric van Gorp, originator of the Viruskenner project and an internist and infectious disease specialist at Erasmus MC. “This is why it is only logical to teach school pupils a lot about infectious diseases and to ensure that they spread their knowledge. It is also a great opportunity to get young people interested in science.”

The participating high school pupils are between 14 and 16 years old. They attend science-oriented secondary schools in the province of Noord-Holland. In groups they are going to collect information about infectious diseases. They will be able to rely on the help of experts: young researchers at Erasmus MC, whom they can reach by telephone and e-mail. The younger pupils are in their final year of elementary school.

The idea is that the pupils will distribute the information they collect far and wide among their peers. It is up to them to decide on the best way of spreading their knowledge. “The groups have complete freedom to come up with new informational materials on infectious diseases. Better than anyone, they know how to reach their peers and get them interested. We hope that their enthusiasm for the Viruskenner project will be contagious, getting as many of their peers as possible involved so that they understand the dangers of infectious diseases, too,” says project coordinator Esther de Winter.

The pupils will present their results at their own schools in April. When the Viruskenner project closes on May 10, 2012, an award will be presented to the group that came up with the best, most striking and most original informational materials. The festive ceremony will be held in the Nemo Science Center, and the award will be presented by Amito Haarhuis (Prof. Amito in the TV program Willem Wever). In addition, the pupils can test their knowledge during the Viruskenner Quiz.

The Viruskenner project is a partnership between Virgo Consortium and the Cirion and SPREAD foundations, the Academic Global Health Platform of Erasmus MC.

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