Le CERN sème des graines de chercheur

Some 700 local primary-school children will be trying out the scientific method for themselves from February to June. After "Draw me a physicist", the latest project "Dans la peau d’un chercheur" ("Be a scientist for a day") is designed to give children a taste of what it's like to be a scientist. Both schemes are the fruit of a partnership between CERN, "PhysiScope" (University of Geneva) and the local education authorities in the Pays de Gex and the Canton of Geneva.


Juliette Davenne (left) and Marie Bugnon (centre) from CERN's Communication Group prepare the mystery boxes for primary schools with Olivier Gaumer (right) of PhysiScope.

Imagine a white box that rattles and gives off a strange smell when you shake it… How would you go about finding out what's inside it without opening it? Thirty primary-school teachers from the Pays de Gex and the Canton of Geneva tried out this exercise on Wednesday 26 January 2011 at the site of the LHCb experiment for the launch of the "Dans la peau d’un chercheur" teaching project. This follows on from the "Draw me a physicist" project run last year in collaboration with local primary schools.

The aim of "Be a scientist for a day" is to acquaint children aged 9 to 12 with the experimental method. It is co-sponsored by Geneva University's "PhysiScope" group, the local education authorities of the Pays de Gex (Inspection de l’éducation nationale) and Geneva (Service de la coordination pédagogique de l’enseignement primaire) and the Faculty of Science and Education. The 670 pupils taking part will need to use an investigative method to unlock the secret of the white box, just like CERN scientists attempting to detect particles which cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Teachers involved in the "Dans la peau d’un chercheur" project try to determine the content of the mystery boxes during their training session.

The project will run from February to June. The first step towards cracking the riddle will involve elaborating an experimental method, where the pupils will make a series of assumptions and carry out various experiments. After that the schools will interact over a network and compare their ideas, share their thoughts, and send questions to CERN scientists via a dedicated website. In April and May, the kids will visit a CERN experiment or take part in a PhysiScope event, a great opportunity to grill the physicists on their own experimental methods. Finally, these budding young scientists will present an official lecture of their own, just like real scientists.

"It's an exciting new venture, which has sprung out of the rich partnership developed between the education authorities of Geneva and the Pays de Gex, and Geneva University's "PhysiScope" group," explains Corinne Pralavorio, who is responsible for CERN’s communications with its local community. "It's great that we've managed to integrate the project into the school curriculum this year and that the children will be cooperating across the French-Swiss border."

For more information, visit the website.

par Corinne Pralavorio