A German format for pupils’ training

Every year CERN welcomes thousands of pupils from schools worldwide for a half-day visit to the Laboratory. However, since 2011 about ten selected students from Germany have been given the opportunity to experience CERN in much greater depth. They are fully sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and supported by an organising structure at TU Dresden - the Dresden University of Technology - led by Michael Kobel. It’s an investment that's paying off in Germany.


The German teachers who participated in the “Netzwerk Teilchenwelt” project, at CERN last week.

“Netzwerk Teilchenwelt” is a project that involves 23 German universities, the DESY Laboratory, several schools and, of course, CERN. Launched in 2010 with a contribution from the German Ministry for Science and Research of about 1 million euros over three years, the project has so far involved over 4,000 students and 500 teachers. “Thanks to this project, both pupils and teachers are being exposed to contemporary physics topics that are not usually included in school curricula,” says Sascha Schmeling from CERN’s Physics Department, one of the originators of the project. “The result has been extremely positive, as pupils and teachers alike are enthusiastic about the experience. The project has also been successful in encouraging science at a higher level, as a significant number of participants have decided to go in for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines at university.”

Under the programme, each year ten 14-18 year-old students come to CERN for two weeks to carry out their own research projects. Their selection is a long process that starts long before they arrive at CERN. “Firstly, pupils take part in dedicated masterclasses, then some of them are selected to become tutors in these masterclasses,” explains Anne Glück, executive coordinator of “Netzwerk Teilchenwelt” in Dresden. “After that, selected participants are chosen for a four-day shadowing experience at CERN. Finally, only those students who have passed all the steps of the selection process and have a valuable research project can apply for the last part of the programme: two weeks at CERN, where they interact directly and in depth with scientists, who help them carry out their individual projects,” adds Gerfried Wiener, coordinator of the network's activities at CERN.

The training project is only in its third year, but 15 of its student research projects on particle physics have already received prestigious awards in Germany. “Teachers are enthusiastic about this initiative and are very happy to come to CERN themselves for one week in the framework of their participation in the programme,” confirms Sascha Schmeling, who is echoed by one of the teachers who visited this year: “We were offered the perfect mix of lectures, visits and group discussions. The time just flew by and I am highly motivated to incorporate the new findings into my teaching courses immediately!”

This year’s students were kept busy. “We spent a lot of time exploring CERN's experiments, including LEIR and the AD,” says Patricia Breunig. “These were often related to our research, giving us a lot of useful information that we could incorporate in our projects.” The students also revelled in certain experiences that could only happen at CERN: “One morning over breakfast, we were joined by a nice man we’d met in the cafeteria,” says Unai Fischer. “We spoke to him about a bit of everything: physics, politics, education… it turns out that he was the Nobel Prize winner Jack Steinberger.” Now that’s certainly a story to take back home!

If you want to keep up with the students taking part in the “Netzwerk Teilchenwelt” project, visit their Web, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Forum pages.

by Antonella Del Rosso