Talent support at the Summer School of Science in Croatia

The Summer School of Science

The Summer School of Science ("S3") is an international workshop of about 8-10 days organized in Visnjan, Croatia for high school students with an interest in science and technology. Its founder, Korado Korlevic, a physics teacher in Visnjan, realized that his students would benefit from an early introduction to true scientific research. The school combines theoretical learning with scientific work and hands-on experiences, while participants also gain an opportunity to make life-long friendships. About 30 students are selected from different countries each year to participate in the two camps of the summer school: one organized for grades 9 and 10 and one for grades 11 and 12. Today, the school has around 150 alumni. The language of instruction and communication in the school is English, since although the majority of students are from Croatia, participants also come from, among others, Hungary, the USA, France, and Serbia.

The aim of the school is to incite an enthusiasm for scientific work in high school students, as well as to help build a community of future researchers. A sign of its success is that earlier participants often volunteer later as mentors or organizers in the workshop, which contributes to the sustainability of the yearly workshop. Students work on a scientific project of their choice in small groups of three or four, aided by a mentor, and also attend lectures on diverse scientific topics. The students are thus offered both theoretical instruction and experimental opportunities to approach different scientific or technological problems.

Experiences of a talented youth at "S3"

Tamás Álmos Vámi, a talented Hungarian youth discovered by the National Talent Programme, was aided to participate at S3 in 2012. Tamás is interested in all branches of science and already has a number of publications, scientific and popular alike, in the area of chemistry and materials science. He likes to exploit every opportunity to engage in scientific activities, for which S3 is an ideal event. Although the mentors and lecturers volunteer to work at the school for no payment, travelling and accommodation expenses in themselves are substantial. Talented students are therefore obliged to find sponsors to support their attendance, which role was taken on by the European Talent Centre – Budapest in the case of Tamás.

Practical aspects and everyday issues

The organizers paid due attention to the needs of the participants. A small but representative example of this is picking up by car, those who arrived by train in a nearby city, which gave the participants a positive first impression. The feeling of responsibility and the group feeling was promoted by distributing the task of doing the shopping for breakfast and washing up among students during the camp. Additionally, a simulated rescue operation served as an introductory team building activity: the students found this stimulating and intriguing even though the event itself provided them only limited opportunity to get to know each other. A further community-related issue was that all but 3 participants could make themselves understood in their first language, being from countries with closely related languages, owing to which the unofficial language of communication was not English – a disadvantage for the linguistic minority at the camp.

Academic aspects

The project topics of the 2012 camp covered microbiology, condensed matter physics, materials science, genetics and brain science. The students could order the project topics according to their preference and liking and were assigned to a specific project based on this. Through this self-differentiation method, the students' interest could be secured and exploited, although, necessarily, not each participant could join the project of his or her first choice in practice, when more students applied to a topic than is feasible. Tamás felt that it might be a better idea to allocate students to projects prior to the commencement of the school (which, he ventured, might also make it easier for them to find a sponsor).

Each day, project work was divided into two parts: morning sessions were theoretical, while afternoon sessions practical and experimental. Beside this focussed work, general lectures were held for all participants in diverse topics ranging from biomedics through economics and physics to computer science. These served to diversify the scientific activities of the students and broaden their interests. To the same end, intriguing one-day workshops were held in order for the students to get away from their topic for an afternoon, while another evening was spent watching and subsequently discussing TED talks.

A good practice to alleviate potential monotony and energize the students was to organize an outdoor day, during which lectures were held on the seaside. In a similar vein, a general lecture on astrobiology was held at the local observatory, providing a matching milieu for the topic, and drawing students away from the monotony of the everyday work site. All of these practices to break the monotony of project work appealed to the participants.

The school also provided a good opportunity for the students to delve into aspects of scientific work not directly related to research. They gained knowledge of safety measures in laboratory work, as well as on efficient scientific communication. The international setting also unavoidably necessitates the use and practice of English, whereby students also acquire substantial knowledge of scientific English. Perhaps necessarily, some lectures were difficult to follow for the students, either because the lecturer did not manage to convey the information at the appropriate level or because of lack of knowledge specialized vocabulary.

On the practical side, the students attended two briefings and needed to prepare short summaries of their work, while on the final evening, they had to give a short presentation with 5 minutes' discussion time summarizing their project work – an exact replica of what would later await them at scientific talks and conferences. It is also a good way to help students practice their presentation skills in English, as well as to induce them to think over and sort out many days' work. Tamás himself feels that his scientific language has greatly improved besides gaining significant professional experience and knowledge, as well as new personal relationships during the camp.

You can find more on this camp at our page Best Practices where you can download the


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