Saint Andrew’s School offers professional development opportunities for its teachers in order to maximize their effectiveness in enhancing student achievement. Upper School Physics teacher Dan Dreyfuss pursued a professional growth experience this summer, and while his learning took him halfway around the world, it also brought him closer toward fulfilling the school’s mission of achieving excellence in teaching at SA.
Mr. Dreyfuss was accepted to the 2019 International Teacher Weeks Program at the Centre European de Recherche Nuclear (CERN), the world’s premier particle physics research facility located in Geneva, Switzerland. What makes the facility unique is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which at 27 km in length, is the largest and most powerful accelerator in the world. Researchers at CERN probe subatomic particles by smashing them together and examining the resulting shower of energy and matter. It is also where Tim Berners Lee invented the WEB in 1990 and the “http:// that exists in every web address. His original proposal, keyboard, and server are on display.
The CERN workshop, which lasted two weeks and included 45 participants from around the globe, offered lectures by physicists and visits to the LHC, the detectors, and the antimatter-factory. CERN produces antimatter every day. “It was very exciting to be at a place where science is being practiced, and research is at the edge of knowledge,” said Mr. Dreyfuss. “Some of my favorite moments were when renowned presenters would respond to a question with, ‘I don't know.’ which at CERN means, ‘Nobody knows.’ ”
Another piece of CERN that Mr. Dreyfuss admires is its commitment to not doing military research and to making public all research results. “Like Geneva, CERN is very international, and it was refreshing to see how the search for knowledge unites scientists from diverse cultures,” he added.
Mr. Dreyfuss did not end his professional learning at CERN; rather, he traveled throughout Europe to see scientifically significant historic sites, many of which were related to the work being done at CERN.
“Traveling to these sites is a pilgrimage of sorts paying homage to some of the greatest names in science,” offered Mr. Dreyfuss. He began this portion of his trip in Leiden in the Netherlands. Leiden has a storied history of science. In addition to visiting the wonderful Boerhaave museum, which has on display several of Leevenhook’s first microscopes, he visited the university and met with faculty and was toured through their historical collections.
Mr. Dreyfuss then boarded a train headed for Gottingen, Germany. Gottingen is known for its university, which played a central role in developing modern atomic theory. He also visited the local cemetery, which is the permanent home to no less than four Nobel laureates, including Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory and whose namesake can be found locally - The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter, FL.
On the way to Heidelberg, his next stop, Mr. Dreyfuss made a quick stop to visit Rotigen’s Lab, where X-rays were serendipitously discovered. Beyond their medical use, X-rays opened the door to research leading to the discovery of radioactivity. “In Heidelberg, I saw the homes of Kirchoff and Bunsen, who developed spectroscopy and revolutionized the study of our universe by allowing astronomers to determine the chemical composition of stars.”
Mr. Dreyfuss’ next stop in Germany was Weil de Stadt, a small town on the edge of the Black Forest that is the birthplace of Johannes Kepler. Kepler is a towering figure in Physics. His laws describe the motion of the planets and provide empirical support for Copernicus’s Heliocentric theory.
Mr. Dreyfuss then spent a day in Bern, Switzerland, where Einstein lived for only a few years, but during which time he published four papers, each worthy of a Nobel prize. Einstein’s ideas, especially about the structure of time and space, have reached into all areas of Physics and into popular culture, as well.
The summer professional growth experiences fuel Mr. Dreyfuss’ passion for Physics, which in turn, impacts his students. He uses pictures and examples from his trips to illustrate Physics concepts and provide historical context. Students are thus able to investigate and draw significant conclusions on topics such as the model of the solar system and Einstein’s theory of special relativity using Mr. Dreyfuss’ unique knowledge and perspective as they learn.
Saint Andrew’s knows how important it is for teachers to be insightful about their craft. Mr. Dreyfuss’ journey was all about tapping into his love for science and his desire to understand more fully the depth of his field.
“I was able to look into the past by visiting historic sites and into the future of science by visiting CERN,” said Mr. Dreyfuss. Present and future Scots show gratitude for Mr. Dreyfuss’ teaching through their hard work and pursuit of knowledge in Physics.