Inspiring insight into primary particles

Students and teachers from Derbyshire at CERN this week (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

“Science is about asking questions,” says Callum, 10. He is one of 40 primary school students and their teachers on a visit to CERN from Derbyshire, UK.

Expecting a group of 9-10 year olds from four different schools to appreciate and understand CERN and its research might seem unlikely, but the children were unfazed. They have been preparing for the visit for some weeks, learning all about the atom and its components.

The visit is part of Inspire Space, a campaign led by Derbyshire County Council with support from local employers including Rolls Royce. The aim is to feed local industry with skilled local people. The East Midlands has a high concentration of companies in the space sector, and there are a number of other high-tech employers. The County Council is keen to retain these companies and increase the benefit to the local economy.

“We’re inspiring the children now for jobs that might exist in the future,” says Wayne Simmons, deputy head teacher of Woodville Church of England Junior School in Derbyshire. 

Space, and science in general, are now part of every subject area in the curriculum at schools throughout the county. “Inspire Space has made a big difference to the way STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects are taught – it’s completely changed!” says Gemma Roe, a year-6 teacher from Woodville School. The science theme is also part of history and literacy lessons.

“The pace at which technology moves, you can’t just look to university students to fill the high-tech jobs,” says Phill Shinwell from Derbyshire County Council. “You need to look further along the education continuum.”

The children spent a day at CERN, visiting the SM18 magnet assembly area, ATLAS Visitor Centre and Microcosm. This is the first visit by primary school children from the UK and a pilot for the Inspire Space campaign.  The long-term campaign will continue in primary and secondary schools through Derbyshire and CERN looks forward to welcoming more students from the county.