Many European Academies are engaged in fostering education at the pre-university level. Often, these efforts have been limited to the natural and technical sciences. Students of social sciences were therefore unable to gain concrete insight into jobs in their field of interest. In 2007, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities created an activity format that applies the concept of inquiry-based learning to the humanities: the Humanities Lab for School Students.
The workshops are directed at senior high school students, who are made familiar with modern scientific work routines. For one school day, students take on the role of a historian or a literary scholar in order to empower them to make the decision for or against future study in the respective humanities subject. The workshops always engage with ‘real’ unsolved problems, which in general are also linked to the research focus of the scholars taking part. In this way, the activities offered by the Student Lab cover the whole spectrum of research at the Academy.
For a long time acting as the only institution of its kind in Germany in the field of linguistics and literary studies, the Humanities Lab for School Students has found imitators at several institutions, including the Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg, the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, and the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. The Humanities Lab for School Students is a member of the Federal Association LernortLabor and the only humanities partner in the regional Student Lab Association GenaU (German abbreviation for Together for Science and Technology Education). The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany) awarded it a prize as a model project in the dialogue between research and the public.