Scientists as seen by children—on canvas

Twenty primary classes from schools near CERN take part in “Draw me a physicist”.

Sketch of a physicist prepared by a pupil from the Satigny Village school, in preparation for the March visit to CERN.
For children, the word “physicist” often evokes a picture of a bespectacled man in a white lab coat, concocting alarming-looking potions. Schoolchildren from the vicinity of CERN might add the further detail that a physicist is someone who tries to create Big Bangs and black holes, not always successfully.  

CERN has just launched a project involving some neighbouring schools in order to contrast the picture children have of physicists with the realities of research.  

Twenty classes from schools in Meyrin, Vernier, Satigny and the Pays de Gex have just started the project “Draw me a physicist”. The children, aged from nine to eleven, will be asked to draw a picture of a physicist and write a dictionary-type definition. Between 15 March and 30 April, each class will visit a CERN laboratory or experiment  and interview two physicists, a man and a woman. Then, they will produce a second drawing and definition. The best of the before-and-after drawings will be displayed in the Globe of Science and Innovation in June.

The teachers who responded to CERN’s initiative were delighted with the opportunity to take their classes to CERN.  “I think it's an exciting approach, bringing together the fine arts, French, and science in this way," says Noémie Moggio, who teaches fourth grade at the school in Satigny Village. “Many of the children go past CERN every day, and naturally they wonder what goes on there.”

“CERN intends to revitalise the dialogue with its neighbours, and this project is part of that,” explains Corinne Pralavorio, who is responsible for local communication in CERN’s Communication Group.  “We want to demystify the work being done at CERN and let children see for themselves what the world of research is all about. The reality will of course be very far from some of the horror scenarios they will have heard about, but we hope that it will still be exciting enough to capture their imagination.”

The 4th grade class from Satigny Village during the visit to the PhysiScope, which opened the pupils’ eyes to some amazing phenomena.
The "Inspection académique" of the Pays de Gex is participating by providing teachers with an educational kit about scientific experiments. On the Swiss side, it is the “Département de l’instruction publique” of the Canton of Geneva that is supporting the campaign. Also taking part is PhysiScope, an educational venture of the Physics Institute of the University of Geneva and the research programme MaNEP (« Materials with Novel Electronic Properties ») that has the aim of getting young people interested in physics through interactive experiments. All the classes from Geneva will be involved in a stimulating and entertaining PhysiScope presentation on the different states of matter.

At CERN, it will be the four major LHC experiments, the cryogenics laboratory, the CMS crystal laboratory and the Control Centre which will open their doors to the school classes and explain their research. The initiative is also being assisted by CERN’s visits service, audiovisual service and photographic laboratory.

Watch the video:

by CERN Bulletin