Participants in the CERN teacher programme observe particle trajectories in a cloud chamber they have built (Image: CERN)
CERN’s Education Group has a long tradition of organizing training courses and visits for students and teachers from all over the world. Recently, it has been involved in two European projects in partnership with universities, schools and various institutions in the field of science education. Pathway and Discover the Cosmos aim to promote science education by pooling teaching resources and expertise, and creating or strengthening networks that connect researchers, teachers and students.
The EU’s Pathway project, which began in the winter of 2010, focuses on the development of science teaching by inquiry. "In this context, we provide everyone who takes part in our training projects with the tools and skills required to build cloud chambers for cosmic-ray detection or to analyse real LHC data," says Mick Storr, who represents CERN in the project. Pathway brings together teachers, scientists, science-education researchers, designers of teaching tools and policy-makers, and has also contributed to changing the way CERN’s mini-travelling exhibition is used.
"The travelling exhibition has been installed in Greece for a whole year now and has turned into a stimulating meeting point where researchers, teachers and students converge to give talks, act as tour-guides or perform new, physics-related activities" says Angelos Alexopoulos of the CERN Education Group. The exihibition has clocked up more than 25,000 visitors to date. "Pathway and its partners have helped us enhance the impact and attractiveness of the exhibition by demonstrating that a simple tool, when used by motivated and well-prepared people, can be a powerful vector of knowledge transmission," says Alexopoulos.
Discover the Cosmos aims to develop e-science through the shared use of tools developed in the field of information technology. Resources and programmes developed in particle physics and astronomy are collected on a single digital portal to help teachers develop activities and tools for themselves. In this framework, CERN and the LHC experiments make real data available together with the software needed to view it. "In short, the EU projects bring disparate activities together to boost their impact," says Storr. "As a partner in these projects, we share our experience, teaching tools and resources with the other participants, and in return we gain better visibility and improve our own practice."