Bringing science to all children – with Henkel’s education initiative “Researchers’ World”

How Henkel is making science more accessible to children with visual impairments 

Social Engagement May 16, 2024

With our social commitment, we strive to shape a viable future and to enable people to lead a better life. Education is one of the most effective tools for positive change and can help to promote equal opportunities and inclusion in society. Our global education initiative Researchers’ World encourages children to take an interest in science and discover it playfully.

Access to education and encouraging equality within educational systems are essential requirements for successful learning and provide a foundation for later life. Recognizing the importance of good education, the Henkel initiative Researchers‘ World, has welcomed young students from all over the world to take their first steps towards science and research by participating in hands-on experiments.

A boy in a lab coat and safety glasses holding a conductivity tester

The Researchers‘ World’s students discover the chemistry behind adhesives, laundry, home and haircare through hands-on experiments.

Forscherwelt in a nutshell 

“Forscherwelt” (in German), which roughly translates to “Researchers’ World”, is a global initiative created by Henkel that aims to introduce science to children in a fun and interactive way. The experiments, specifically designed for children, align with Henkel‘s business units, and encourage them to explore the chemistry behind adhesives, detergents, home care and hair care. Additionally, sustainability is also a key learning objective embedded in the Researchers’ World’s courses. Here, the children are taught how to conserve raw materials and energy, as well as how to recycle and separate waste. 

Moreover, experiments designed to find out what adhesives are made of, how to separate colors, or how to identify limestone in toothpaste are just a few examples of many fascinating experiments conducted in the program’s classrooms around the world.

The initiative follows the motto: “Little ones researching like grown-ups”. The children conduct their own research and experiments in laboratories, just like professional researchers would. Moreover, Q&A sessions with Henkel experts allow the children to gain a better understanding of the materials in front of them and the research processes in general. 

Collaboration with visually impaired students of the Karl-Tietenberg-School

As of 2022, Researchers‘ World has been offering science lessons for the students of the Karl-Tietenberg-School in the lab on Henkel premises in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Karl-Tietenberg-School is a school for visually impaired and blind children and focuses on an activity-based education and learning with all senses. In an annual cycle, the school's fifth grade takes part in an eight-part series of science lessons offered by Henkel’s Researchers‘ World and conducts research and experiments related to an overarching topic. Dr. Ute Krupp, Head of Henkel’s Researchers’ World and Education Relations, says, “Children are naturally curious and want to explore the world around them. By making science more accessible, we ensure that all children can pursue this sense of wonder for the unknown.”

Moreover, there is a research-day for students from a joint learning group. This group consists of children and young people, also with visual impairments, who attend mainstream schools in the region, which are supervised by the Karl-Tietenberg-School. The children, guided by Henkel professionals, investigate the science behind adhesives, hair care, and detergents following the fundamental principles of Researchers‘ World.

The collaboration came to life after a heavily visually impaired Henkel employee completed her degree in process engineering and then continued to work as a Process Development Manager. Many professions seem easily accessible to people with visual impairments. However, especially studies in chemistry prove to be out of reach, due to the many practical experiments. In addition to this, the curriculums of many schools do not offer adequate support to encourage independent researching for visually impaired students. This results in unjustified discrimination and only complicates students’ admissions into the STEM world. Inspired to make a positive change and create equal opportunities, the initiative Researchers World made the decision to support and encourage children with visual impairments towards science.  

What makes this new program so special, is that it is not "special" in any way or form. “The children from the Karl-Tietenberg-School conduct the exact same experiments as all the other children do. So, regarding the content of the program, nothing changes,” says Ute. The only differences between the two groups are the group size, the supervision ratio, and the use of digital aids to ensure a safe handling of the chemicals and technological equipment. 

Laptops fitted with external braille keyboards allow the young researchers to carry out the experiments safely and accessibly.

Laptops fitted with external braille keyboards allow the young researchers to carry out the experiments safely and accessibly.

Second place at the LeLa-Awards

Earlier this year, Henkel and its Researchers’ World was awarded ‘the LeLa Award’ which is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany. The project with the Karl-Tietenberg-School took second place in the category ‘Diversity’ together with the Children’s Technology Center in Dortmund. This category recognizes laboratories contributing to the inclusion of special target groups, such as refugees or children and teenagers with special needs. The LeLa prize 2024 – which is short for ‘Lernort Labor’ (English ‘laboratory as a place of learning’) – is endowed with prize money totaling 41,000 euros for outstanding achievements by laboratories and their dedicated employees. This year, the prize was awarded in five different categories. Each of these categories pinpoints a different focus area, such as digitalization, diversity, or innovation. After accepting the award Ute reflects on the program: “The entire project feels incredibly rewarding. Apart from winning such a meaningful prize, we found a way to make science more accessible and inclusive for children, which is the biggest win of all.”

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