Being a travel enthusiast and definitely a science nerd means that I can’t help but add some science-related activities to our travel itineraries. You know this if you see all our 5 Best Aquariums post. But one of my favorite stops as been to visit CERN outside of Geneva in Switzerland, a particle physics research facility. Some of you are totally excited with me and some of you just need a quick reminder. This is where the Large Hadron Collider is, this is where they are accelerating particles together at incredibly high speeds to see what is inside.
Here’s a pop culture reference; do you watch the Big Bang Theory? Do you remember the episode where Leonard gets to go to Switzerland over Valentine's day and Sheldon gets mad he isn’t taking him? Well, that’s where they are going, to visit CERN.
Traveling for Science
This is not just an ordinary science lab, it is a massive underground circular tunnel where they send atomic particles speeding towards each other at almost light speed to collide them into each other to break them apart. This 27-kilometer (about 16 miles) long tunnel is over 100 meters (½ a mile) underground. It is really an amazing feat of science. So you can see where a science nerd has to visit and pay tribute.
We were trying to finish planning our road trip through Italy and France and needed to take a flight to Edinburgh Scotland because we had gotten British Open tickets. Surprisingly we found the cheapest flights out of Geneva. I was reviewing the map and thought that it was a great way to see another country and get a great deal on a flight. But then I saw it, CERN, only 2 minutes off our path to the hotel! That sealed the deal.
How to Visit CERN and Geneva
The facility welcomes visitors, they offer tours and have some permanent exhibits to learn more about the work they are doing and information about the world of atoms. For more information check out their website- www.cern.org
We made this decision slightly in haste so I didn’t have the time required to go on or book a tour. But if you make your plans in advance they offer a variety of tours. Another cool tip about Geneva is that the hotels provide visitors free transit pass to use in the city. So you can use that to get to CERN for free and use it to visit anywhere in the city. You can also get a free airport to your hotel ticket, just ask around at the airport.
Without a tour, the Globe and permanent exhibit are open anytime without reservations. The Globe of Science and Innovation houses the “Universe of Particles” that explores the world of particles back to the Big Bang. Across the street in the main entrance building is an exhibition about the what they are doing at CERN. It is really cool to learn how the collider works and see pieces of it. And of course, there is a gift shop where I couldn’t help but by postcards for my fellow science teachers and their classrooms.
Science in Real Life
To my teacher friends, chemistry and the atom are such fascinating but difficult concepts for our students to learn. I will use CERN in my lessons to make it a bit more concrete and to tell them that this is not something in a textbook but real science happening today. Use their education section to introduce it to your students. Also, we are always working on some resources on our TPT site. Check out our chemistry resources to help engage your students. I love to teach chemistry, especially to middle school students. One of the lessons that I find works best is talking about the Importance Of The Proton. It is one of those skills that if the students master it they are more likely to be able to critically think through chemistry problems.
Give it a try and let us know what your favorite science travels are and what your favorite chemistry lessons are, we always need new inspiration.