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Petnica Science Center

Petnica Science Center is the biggest and the oldest independent nonprofit organization for extracurricular, informal science education in South Eastern Europe. Since 1982. Petnica has organized more than 3,000 programs (seminars, workshops, research camps…) for nearly 50,000 students and science teachers in 15 disciplines of science, technology and humanities: Astronomy, Physics, Electronic, Computing, Mathematics, Biology, Molecular Biomedicine, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, Archaeology, History, Linguistics, and Psychology.

Majority of programs are designed for secondary-school students although there are a lot of programs for primary-school pupils, university students and science teachers. Attendants of regular Petnica programs are coming from all countries of former Yugoslavia and all these courses are being realized in Serbian language.

Petnica Science Center (PSC) is an independent, non-profit institution for parallel to school scientific education of high school students in southeastern Europe. For the past 35 years, it has been a place of free thinking and innovative ideas for students with strong interests in science and the scientific method. There are no marks, tests, exams or certificates given and curicula are easily adapted in accordance to recent findings and current topics in science. PSC utilizes a peer-to-peer education system, where university students are the tutors of high school students, providing a more informal learning setting to foster the development of scientific ideas.

Peer to peer education, as an important aspect of the model is highly beneficial for both young tutors (university students) and their slightly younger students. The primary PSC philosophy is to promote scientific literacy and help high school students understand the scientific method. Through hands-on approaches to research and science, students learn how to read appropriate literature, learn basic research methods, and are encouraged to develop their own scientific questions. As students’ progress through the program, they engage in training and activities that allow them to create their own independent research project proposal. After the project proposal is reviewed and approved, students have the opportunity to conduct their own research, analyze their results, and write a final peer-reviewed manuscript.

Selected manuscripts are presented at the Petnica annual conference as posters and platform presentation and are published as papers in annual proceedings by PSC. Each year, 1500 high school students from Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, FYR of Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina attend regular programs at PSC, each spending an average of 35 days at the campus annually. A network of senior associates, lecturers and peer educators includes nearly 2500 people from over 450 academic institutions and companies.

Petnica Centre has functional and complex facilities in the village Petnica near Valjevo (West Serbia). There are fully equipped boarding facilities (160-bed Dormitory plus Restaurant), various types of classrooms, laboratories, a big and multifunctional library with a carefully designed Teaching Resource Centre, etc. All laboratories are well equipped thanks to the support of Serbian Government and European Investment Bank of almost 3 million euros in 2011.

Students and teachers who participate at some of PSC’s programs have access to a rich Library (40,000 books and journals, and computer database with thousands of electronic journals and books), Teacher Resource Centre with specific training capacities. There are also about 75 computers dispersed through PSC’s facilities, which are accessible 24-hours a day, and laboratories and professional workshops of different types and functions. PSC is member of National Academic Internet Network.

For many years the PSC has carefully collected various types of useful teaching equipment, especially research-grade equipment that could be used for students’ individual projects and research activities. So, we can say that some of the PSC’s labs are equipped much better than the majority of Serbian schools, but we must be aware that the level of equipment in Serbian schools are far, far from EU standards.