Primary school & high school students engage with science and Russian culture at iThemba Labs

News, 28 February 2024

On 29 January 2024, an agreement was signed to establish a JINR Information Centre at iThemba LABS, the Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences in the Republic of South Africa. JINR Director Grigory Trubnikov and iThemba LABS Director Makondelele Victor Tshivhase signed the document.

The Information Centre is scheduled to open in December 2024, but preparations and outreach programmes have already begun. Apart from its primary goals to strengthen the worldwide JINR partner network and further scientific staff training, the SA-JINR Information Centre also aims to popularise science. The centre will contribute to informing schoolchildren and teachers about the career opportunities in science in SA as well as in cooperation with JINR and other international partners. It will provide and support educational opportunities related to modern science and applied research in nuclear physics .

To coincide with a visit of the JINR University Centre delegation to iThemba LABS for an educational Summer School programme for South African university students, colleagues from South Africa offered an additional programme for primary and high school students and their teachers.

On 29 January 2024, 30 primary school students from Blackheath Primary and Spurwing Primary, and on 30 January 2024, 30 high school students from Masiyile High School, embarked on an journey to iThemba LABS as part of the RSA-JINR collaboration and science engagement programme with schools.

The day commenced with an interactive presentation by Caren Rossouw about Russian history, culture, religion, language features, and the multinational character of the Russian Federation, setting the stage for a multicultural learning experience. Following this cultural immersion, the students explored different scientific topics via a series of lectures: “History of the Universe”, “Colliders of the 21st Century”, “Atoms, Nuclei and Isotopes”.

The day concluded with a multimedia JINR Exhibition, held in the main hall of iThemba Labs, where the students and accompanying teachers further explored JINR’s main facilities. They were introduced to the riveting history and promising future of superheavy element synthesis, explored the intricacies of the NICA Accelerator Complex, and marvelled at the construction of the Neutrino Telescope at Baikal Lake. In addition, the students engaged in hands-on experimentation using VR and AR technology, offering a glimpse into the realm of scientific inquiry.

Masiyile High School student Mbalethi Ndamboza spoke highly of the programme, noting: “Today I was impressed by seeing that science does not end in a classroom, but you can also experience it outside the classroom after learning and that there are so many careers based on science”.

The excursion to iThemba Labs is a testimony to the fruitful partnership between South Africa and JINR, and hope abounds that this programme can become an annual event.