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MSRAL 2006 Convention

SLAS Regular Meeting
Friday, April 20, 2012
McDonnell Hall
Washington University

Particle Physics in the High School Classroom


Mr. Jim Small, St. Louis Astronomical Society
and Tim Morrison, Parkway South High School

Particle physics is the study of the sub-microscopic pieces of matter that make up the atoms, ions, and molecules of the physical universe. Experiments involving particle physics generally require monster machines – accelerators and "atom smashers". Consequently, particle physics would seem to be far beyond the reach of high school science. However, a government supported program for science teachers, called QuarkNet, provides teachers with the opportunity to work with physicists over the summer on a particle physics experiment. They then work their experiences into the high school curriculum. A section of this program, called Virtual QuarkNet, with additional support from the University of Notre Dame, extends this opportunity to a
wider range of teachers. A group of Parkway South High school students participated in a March 2012 Virtual QuarkNet program called the US Masterclass that brought them experiment results and data from CERN, a European particle accelerator. The students worked with experimental data from over 2,000 Z-particle collisions, and concluded their project with a videoconference with the European scientists and two other high school classes. Jim Small and Tim Morrison guided the Parkway South students. They will talk about this project and about the next step in the program – setting up a cosmic ray detector in the school.

Jim Small is one of the Virtual QuarkNet mentors. A veteran instructor of high school and community college science courses, Mr. Small, assists local educators who wish to participate in QuarkNet programs. Tim Morrison teaches physics at Parkway South. Mr. Morrison spent a summer at the Fermilab national laboratory near Chicago, then led is students in a QuarkNet project during the school year.


Astro 101 - The Latest From Mars

Jim Melka
St. Louis Astronomical Society

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