Focus on: CERN, the world's largest physics laboratory

Date Posted: 17/03/2016

CERN is the world's largest physics laboratory.

School Travel Organiser takes a look at how a visit to CERN can inspire students’ Physics studies.

Founded in 1954 for pure physics research, CERN is the world’s largest physics laboratory which uses large and complex scientific instruments to study the fundamental particles of the universe. Schools can visit the laboratory, which sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near the city of Geneva in Switzerland, to complement the Science syllabus, in particular for Key Stages 3 and 4.

Exhibitions, guided and self-led tours will offer an insight into the everyday work that CERN scientists undertake, as well as providing students with a first-hand experience of what goes on inside the laboratory.

Exhibitions

There are two permanent exhibitions available for students to visit: Universe of Particles and Microcosm.

The Universe of Particles exhibition takes students on a journey to discover what the university is made of and can be tied into Key Stage 3 and 4 studies in Physics, including topics on Matter and the Particle Model, as well as the Structure of Matter and Atomic Structure.

Questions such as ‘Where do particles come from?’, ‘What laws govern their behaviour?’, ‘How do you detect particles?’, and ‘What are today’s theories on matter and the universe?’ will be explained in the exhibition which is divided into six areas. 

The exhibition is currently closed due to maintenance work on the Globe of Science and Innovation – where the exhibition is located – however it is expected to reopen next month.

The Microcosm exhibition tells the story of CERN’s scientific adventure and pupils will discover the full scale of the experiments that take place there. There is an opportunity to find out what is happening at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and meet the people who build and operate the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider.

The 500 metre squared area dedicated to Microcosm also lets students follow the path of the particles from a bottle of hydrogen, through the network of accelerators and on to collision inside vast experiments.

Microcosm is targeted towards pupils aged 12 years and older.

Hadron collider.

Passport to the Big Bang

One of the biggest attractions for visitors booking tours around CERN is the LHC, which consists of a 27 kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

The Passport to the Big Bang is a 54 kilometre cycle path which connects ten platforms located above the LHC accelerator that let students explore the giant machine. At each of the ten stages posters will explain the research carried out at CERN, whilst pupils can also participate in the LHC mission using interactive terminals on each platform to discover more.

Schools interested in taking part in the Passport to the Big Bang do not have to complete the whole cycle path in one day.

Guided tours

A three-hour guided tour, which is free of charge, is also available for groups of between 12 and 48 students (this number also includes teachers and accompanying adults).

Whilst tours are required to be booked directly through CERN, education travel company, Adaptable Travel, is on hand to help schools organise a trip and tailor it to the specific requirements for each class.

Extending your trip in Switzerland

Additionally schools can combine a visit to CERN, with a trip to the History of Science Museum, also found in Geneva. The museum helps to document scientific progress through a collection of scientific objects and apparatus, including the world’s first battery, as well as microscopes, telescopes and thermometers dating from between the 17th and 19th centuries.

A range of CERN teaching resources are also available online to be downloaded.

For more information visit the CERN education website.

School Travel Organiser's Guide