CERN’s teachers’ programme celebrates its sixth year

5 October 2003

The High School Teachers’ programme at CERN celebrated the completion of its sixth session in July, with 40 teachers participating, not only from all over Europe, but also from China, Mongolia and the US.

The idea of the High School Teachers’ (HST) programme originally emerged from discussions within CERN’s Academic Training Committee, and was inspired by similar initiatives in the US. The primary goals of the programme are: to promote the teaching of particle physics to high-school students, to promote the exchange of knowledge between cultures, to expose teachers to the world of research, to help stimulate the popularization of physics in the classroom, to create links between European schools, and to promote co-operation between CERN and existing programmes in the European Union.

The first HST programme was held in 1998, and since then has continued under the direction of Michelangelo Mangano and Mick Storr from CERN. In addition, Gron Jones from the University of Birmingham in the UK lectures on bubble chambers each year and is a workgroup director.

The increasing interest and success of the programme has helped to expand the number of participants from nine teachers in 1998 to 40 this year. Altogether, 170 teachers from 29 countries have participated over the six years. The programme is advertised by word of mouth, through national organizations and via CERN’s teachers’ website (see “Further reading”). During the past year, a total of 110 teachers applied to participate in the 2003 programme, with applications coming from CERN member states and from Algeria, Bahrain, China, India, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Slovenia and the US. Among the non-member states, teachers from China, Mongolia, Slovenia and the US were then invited to attend HST 2003.

All of the applicants are high-school physics teachers who are selected on the basis of their English-language competency, their activity in scientific organizations and publications, and their skills in the use of a PC. They are selected by a committee, which also looks for a diversity of cultures, teaching experience and educational backgrounds in the screening process.

During the past five years of the HST programme, a group from the US has also joined as part of the Research and Education for Teachers (RET) initiative, sponsored by Northeastern University in Boston. The RET initiative was founded in 1999 by Steve Reucroft at Northeastern and is funded by the US National Science Foundation. The teachers participating under the RET initiative spend additional time with a researcher at CERN to learn about a specific project. This year six teachers attended, not only from the Boston area, but also from Texas and Washington State, and they “shadowed” researchers during the week following the programme.

This year’s programme, HST 2003, included attending lectures hosted by CERN’s summer student programme, special lectures specifically for the HST participants, projects created in small working groups, presentations of completed projects, site visits and cultural interchange events, the highlight of which was a final gathering featuring native culinary dishes.

A “hands on” workgroup was introduced for the first time this year, in which participants built demonstration accelerator models for the classroom. A second group helped in the organization of CERN’s “Ask an expert” website, and two other groups worked on organizing the materials produced by former HST groups and on producing formal lesson plans.

An additional feature in this year’s programme was the Alumni working group. Participants from previous years were invited to CERN and were asked to conduct a survey among their HST colleagues on the usefulness of the programme in their teaching and other related work. From the results of this survey, and from information provided by the returning workgroup members, suggestions were then made to the directors for improvements and for the future direction of the programme.

The HST programme has now ended for another year, but the results, like any teaching endeavour, will only be seen in time. This investment in the future by CERN and by the HST participants has the potential not only to sway popular opinion toward scientific endeavour, but also to sow the seeds for the development of some great future scientists.

Shared experiences


“Participating in the HST programme was a great experience. Being the only physics teacher at my school, I normally don’t have the opportunity to exchange all kinds of information concerning physics. Suddenly, I had the chance to share my experiences with more than 35 physics teachers from more than 20 nationalities!”

Vanessa van Engelen (HST 2002 and HST 2003) – seen here working on a demonstration model of a linear accelerator – teaches physics and mathematics at K A Schoten in Belgium. She also worked at the University of Antwerp for two years on a programme called “Brugproject”.

Broadening horizons


“My experience at CERN as a participant in HST 2001 has been, without doubt, one of the most important and memorable of my life! I am still processing the educational, scientific and cultural ramifications of those seven weeks, and probably will for years to come. For my own personal enjoyment and enrichment, the friendships made with people from other countries, and the opportunity to travel during free time, broadened my cultural horizons as much as the work at CERN itself expanded my view of major research enterprises.”

Alan Kaufman (HST 2001 and RET 2001) – seen here on the far right in the 2001 group photo – teaches at Malden Catholic High School in Malden, Massachusetts, US.

A unique opportunity


“Remarkable. That is the best description I can give to the CERN HST programme. I have been exposed to the most advanced physics laboratory in the world. The opportunity of being lectured by outstanding researchers in the field of particle physics is an experience that I will always tell my students in the years to come. I knew that this workshop would be a unique opportunity for me, but it has, in many ways, exceeded my expectations.”

Jesus Hernandez (HST 2003) – seen here during the workshop on building accelerator demonstration models – is a physics teacher at Lawrence High School, Lawrence, Massachusetts, US. Born in Venezuela, he has been living in the US for 12 years, and has a Masters degree in Physical Chemistry of Polymers. He decided to become a teacher when he learned about the Massachusetts Institute for New Teachers programme.

Transferring knowledge


“My feeling about the HST programme is that it must continue to be mainly addressed to young or inexperienced teachers, for three main reasons. It is a powerful way of transferring knowledge as it puts secondary school teachers and scientists in direct contact in real research surroundings; it addresses the most modern areas of physics, which are extremely interesting and challenging for everyone, and above all for youngsters of the 21st century; and it is a clever way of motivating teachers to transmit their knowledge and enthusiasm to their students.”

Anabela Bastos Tibúrcio Martins (HST 2003) from Portugal – seen here, on the left, with Margarita Lorenzo Cimadevila from Spain – has a PhD in Science Education, with In-service Science Teacher Training, at the Royal Danish School of Educational Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Further reading

For more information, see

bright-rec iop pub iop-science physcis connect