From Electrons to Galaxies: Greek high schoolers visit CERN

(Video: Stella Tsikrika)

Soon after his return to Greece from the Greek Teachers Programme at CERN last autumn, high-school physics teacher Andreas Valadakis put forward his plan for sharing with his students his renewed enthusiasm and passion for particle physics. For five school months, Andreas and 10 of his students, members of the “Electrons and Galaxies” research project team at Varvakeio High School in Athens, Greece, met once a week out of school hours in the school science lab to perform physics experiments, to talk about the research carried out at CERN, and to learn about its contribution to a better understanding of the universe.

“We came up with the idea to visit CERN after the first six, seven sessions. We, of course, continued doing experiments in the lab, but we also started looking up CERN’s history,” says Valadakis. “My aim was to nudge students towards understanding the collective human effort being made at the world’s largest physics laboratory in pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge.”

In this video, Greek filmmaker Stella Tsikrika documents the Varvakeio team at the school lab, then at CERN during their two-day visit last spring, and back in school a few weeks after their return to Athens, Greece. During their visit to CERN, the team had the opportunity to visit the ALICE and CMS caverns as well as the Proton Synchrotron, the workforce of CERN’s accelerator complex, and the superconducting testing magnet facility for the Large Hadron Collider. Students also learned how to analyse real LHC data from the CMS experiment in a dedicated mini-Masterclass, the first of its kind for Greek students visiting the laboratory. And they also met and talked to CERN scientists. “It’s especially important for young people at high school age… to be in such a place and see that people like them have managed to accomplish so much. My students got a lot out of it for sure, and I certainly did too,” says Valadakis.

This activity was supported by the CERN Education Group in the framework of the Discover the COSMOS project, aimed at demonstrating innovative ways to involve teachers and students in eScience in order to spark their interest in science and in following scientific careers.