CERN’s teacher programmes at 20

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“We were a group of nine physics-teachers from seven different countries who took part in a pilot-project at CERN for three weeks in the summer of 1998.” So began the report from the first ever CERN High-School Teacher programme (HST). Twenty years later, over 800 teachers have benefited from taking part in HST, and CERN’s teacher programmes have diversified beyond recognition.

The multinational HST still takes place every summer and hardly a week goes by at CERN without a national teacher programme in which teachers from a particular country are given an introduction to particle physics in their native language. The programmes welcome teachers from around the world, and in CERN's 60th anniversary year, a special school was organised for teachers from the Members of SESAME, the Middle East’s new light source. All in all, close to 12 000 teachers have joined CERN’s teacher programmes, and have returned to their schools to share their new knowledge and enthusiasm for research with their students. Over a period of 20 years, that adds up to many thousands of students, infused with a passion for physics.

Organised by a highly dedicated team, our teacher programmes form part of CERN’s core mission to educate and train the scientists and citizens of tomorrow. This is not only important for the continuity of the field of particle physics, but also for society in general. As the global labour market is developing, the need for STEM skills continues to increase rapidly. Equally importantly, scientific literacy is an essential prerequisite for individuals to navigate the modern world and for society to overcome many of the global challenges before us. Institutions such as CERN, at the forefront of modern research, have a unique role to play, and a responsibility to fulfil, in engaging the young. This is where our teacher programmes fit in.

The teacher programmes would not be possible without the engagement of colleagues from across the Laboratory, and we are deeply grateful to them for generously sharing their time and expertise. Their knowledge is now shared in classrooms throughout the world.

The report of the first HST in 1998 concluded with the words:  “I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else during this part of my vacation!” Every year since, teachers have left CERN with this spirit of exploration, learning, friendship and fun. An incredible basis for sharing knowledge and engaging the next generation in the unique journey of scientific exploration.

Read about the 20th anniversary of the High-School Teacher programme.