And briefly…

Science in school

Launched in 2006 by EIROforum, Science in School is a quarterly journal for science teachers. Well illustrated and chock full of a dazzling variety of material, the magazine is available free of charge in English for teachers, while the on-line version, with several articles translated into different languages, also hosts a discussion site. Science in School presents the latest discoveries in leading-edge science, pilot teaching projects, interviews with professors and scientific researchers, and provides concrete teaching material (teaching aids, calendar of events) as well as an on-line chat room.

Secrets of the stars

Catch a Star, category ‘artists’. Catch a Star, category ‘artists’.

Catch a Star has just completed its fifth contest. Organised by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE), it is open to schoolchildren around the world. This contest is more than just a competition. Its organisers see it as an opportunity to encourage young people to take an interest in science, by giving them a chance to gain more in-depth knowledge of astronomy and to work as part of a team. Catch a Star has three levels. In the top category, research teams of three students, aged at least 15, plus a teacher, work on astronomy projects of their choice. The winning entry will earn a trip for its team to Paranal (Chile), where team members will visit the ESO’s La Silla Observatory. A second category allows "adventurers" to address the same subject more simply, (for instance through a report on a day among the stars). Budding artists can submit drawings to the site, to be judged by site surfers. This year, the research section alone attracted 123 projects from 22 countries.

A gem of a website

The CNRS in the polar regions. The CNRS in the polar regions.
© CNRS Photothèque

Curiosity is a great thing, and the CNRS (French National Scientific Research Centre, which involves 30 000 scientists) website serves it admirably. This is popular science at its best: it includes pages for the general public and for young people, images, a multimedia library, special reports, science and decision-making. In the context of the “international polar year”, the virtual Journal des sciences offers a journey ‘with the research team to look for answers on the Earth’s fate’. Magazine articles report on fieldwork and life in the lab. Since all domains are represented at CNRS, you can move from mediaeval archaeology to fibre optics by way of the false trail of mitochondrial DNA. These pages, packed with information expressed in clear, plain language, provide secondary school teachers and students with a wealth of useful material for preparing lively and well-documented classroom and written work. With one click, visitors can also enter an astonishing collection of educational images classed by category – physics, chemistry, life sciences – with very specific information files (illustration, concise explanation, links). Anyone wanting to understand, for example, what a vegetable organism is, may find themselves embarking upon a fascinating adventure of knowledge, and developing an interest in cells, vacuoles and chloroplasts, before jumping on to photosynthesis and genotype. The combination of information and image is bound to whet your appetite for both knowledge and images, and keep you coming back for more.

The world of CERN

Visiting a particle accelerator. Visiting a particle accelerator.

CERN, its site straddling the border between France and Switzerland, is the world’s leading centre for particle physics research. What CERN’s physicists are attempting to do, armed with their particle accelerators and other giant machines, is to recreate the conditions that existed at the very beginning of the universe, and to study the very smallest components of matter. They are also great communicators, and are eager to share their passion and their investigations into the mysteries of the cosmos. For children, they have devised Fun with Physics workshops, and multimedia games with guides like comic strip heroes, who invite them to taste their liquid nitrogen strawberry ice cream before setting out in search of cosmic rays, antiprotons, quarks and gluons. The whole site visit package is also available on line, via the interactive centre Microcosm. For teachers, CERN has a whole package of activities, presented in three-day or three-week summer programmes. These include conferences, workshops, lab visits and discussions designed to help them keep in touch with what is going on in physics research and perhaps pick up some new ideas for their lessons. There is also a wealth of teaching material available on-line, and CERN, of course, is one of the partners in Science on Stage (see p. 38).