Playing with Protons 2018

9 August 2018

Earlier this month, ten primary science specialist teachers from the UK travelled to Geneva to participate in the Playing with Protons UK CPD programme at CERN. Hosted by IdeaSquare at CERN, the project is a collaboration between the CMS Experiment, University of Birmingham and STFC, and is supported by The Ogden Trust and the CREATIONS project. 

Playing with Protons is an education initiative led by the CMS Experiment bringing together primary school teachers, science education specialists and CERN researchers to develop creative approaches to helping primary students engage effectively in physics, discovery and innovation.

Playing with Protons UK seeks to develop participants' subject knowledge and confidence in areas of physics as well as share the awe and wonder of current developments in particle physics, cosmology and engineering that make CERN one of the most exciting science facilities on the planet. The programme also seeks to inspire teachers to create amazing learning opportunities for children back in the UK that can be shared across partnerships of schools.

In this year’s programme, the participating teachers enjoyed interactive visits to the innovative exhibitions in The Globe and Microcosm which gave a real insight into the story of CERN as well as a fantastic introduction to the operation of the LHC and the experiments that are currently in action.

Participants were very fortunate to have expert guide Dr Mick Storr, a Fellow of the University of Birmingham who has spent his career at CERN as both an experimental particle physicist and software engineer. Mick had a wealth of stories to tell that really helped the participants appreciate the amazing work that has been done at CERN over the years, as well as giving an insight into the exciting innovations and developments that are going on today. Mick really helped make this a memorable experience for all involved.

“It was really wonderful to meet teachers who share an enthusiasm in science and enhancing the curriculum. It was also amazing to be able to do it in one of the best science facilities in the world.”

Participants were able to visit the CMS Experiment, the ATLAS Experiment and the Synchrocyclotron. In addition, they participated in a range of educational and creative workshops provided by Ogden Trust consultants Dr Jenny Watson, Jackie Flaherty and Amanda Poole. Jo Lewis and Elizabeth Cunningham from STFC also joined Dr Maria Pavlidou and Professor Cristina Lazzeroni from the University of Birmingham to deliver an inspirational workshop on elementary particles. Guest speaker Michael Doser, from the physics department (EP) at CERN, took time out of his busy schedule to share his enthusiasm and his knowledge of experimental particle physics. He considered 'Big questions for small people' in his talk which addressed dark matter. He gave the audience definite food for thought when he revealed three suggestions for the fate of the universe: the big chill, the big crunch or the big rip!

“I really enjoyed being in such an inspirational place with like-minded people. Visiting all the CERN sites has inspired me.”

“This year’s delegates are already thinking about how they can take ideas from this programme and inspire the next generation and their families,” says Wendy Cox, Head of School Partnerships for The Ogden Trust who took part in this year's trip. “Innovative ideas for bringing this learning into the classrooms and community are already germinating.

“It really was an incredible second year of Playing with Protons UK,” concludes Wendy. “The workshops, tours and speakers brought together subject knowledge and relevance to the primary curriculum. Science pedagogy along with practical application in the primary classroom made this CPD experience unique. Teachers, passionate about primary science came together to share ideas, network and learn in the most inspirational place – CERN.”

I'd love to do a family learning night and to use some of the activities with my students. Maybe a playing with protons club?”

I really loved the particle zoo and want to do something similar with the kids at school. I also want to incorporate more about the structure of particles in my teaching.”

“I want to share with schools from my partnership.  
“Thank you for the privilege, I've learnt so much.”

“Love CERN, love physics, love science!”


Image credits: Julien Orden/CERN © CERN (For terms of use see: and Joe Warner

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