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Network School-Labs: Goals and Implementation

Fostering the next generation of scientists

For a leading institution in cutting-edge research, new, bright minds and creative ideas are always needed. Often, however, young people who are particularly talented in natural sciences or technology have yet to discover themselves. Sometimes they cannot even imagine making important contributions to science themselves at some point in the future. Practical experience through work of their own, as well as "early recognition" and fostering of their potential by others, can encourage them to venture onto the often not very easy path to a career in science.

The members of the Helmholtz Network School-Labs support young people by opening up a personal approach to science and research and generating enthusiasm through high-quality one-day-programs or longer-term courses. For particularly motivated and gifted children and young people, there are also further-reaching offers to delve deeper into science.

Communicating a basic understanding of science within society

Our world would no longer be conceivable in its present form without the findings of science and research, whether in the sectors of energy supply, medicine or in the private sphere. In many cases, however, the contexts are very complex, and frustration or even skepticism can arise when trying to understand them. Consequently, the Helmholtz Association sees its social responsibility in helping children and young people to understand how research leads to new discoveries, and to make clear why science constantly questions itself in order to be confident about its results.

In programs for school classes and in advanced training courses for teachers, the Helmholtz Association's school labs make research comprehensible using authentic and relevant topics. They introduce scientific methodology with concrete experiments that children and young people conduct themselves. This makes research transparent and creates a basis of trust in society.

Opening up access for schools to current research

As a result of new discoveries and processes in research and technology, our lives and our work environment are changing faster all the time. Keeping up with this speed is difficult for school teaching, as it often takes a long time before teachers have access to new teaching materials. Understandably, however, young people are interested now in innovations and developments that affect them.

In this situation, the Network School-Labs can facilitate rapid and direct dialog by showing schools through "open research" what science is working on. At the same time, it explains the goals and significance of this work to young people and teachers. In return, research can become aware of any reservations or fears that may exist and address them or even receive new ideas. In many cases, the Helmholtz Association's student laboratories also offer free materials on their topics for classroom use.

Looking to the future

Research is often focused on future issues, but these do not only concern science and technology. In the search for solutions to emerging future problems, societal aspects such as integration and diversity as well as economic and political factors relating to sustainability are closely linked to the natural sciences. In this way, the Helmholtz Association's research centers contribute to many of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, while also working to implement them in their own day-to-day work environment. Here, too, school laboratories can set an example by introducing young people to the problems and to approaches to solving them, and by endeavoring to act as role models through their own practice.

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