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Primary schools challenge CERN

CERN scientists have six months to find out what’s inside two mysterious boxes without opening them

Dans la peau de scientifiques 2021 - le défi
Elementary school children give a mysterious box to a CERN scientist as part of the school's challenge (Image: CERN)

As the Be a Scientist project reaches its 10th anniversary, the tables are turned as primary school pupils set a challenge for CERN… and the clock is ticking!

Launched in 2011, the Be a Scientist educational programme is the result of a collaboration between institutions on both sides of the Franco-Swiss border: the University of Geneva (Physiscope and the Laboratory of Didactics and Science Epistemology), the Department of Public Education (Geneva) and the Ministry of Education (France).

Every year, about 800 pupils aged 8 to 12 from Geneva, Ain and Haute-Savoie follow in scientists’ footsteps by studying the scientific research process. Like researchers who are looking for invisible particles, the pupils make hypotheses, collect data and use evidence as they set out to identify the contents of boxes provided by CERN. One small catch – they are not allowed to open the boxes or damage them in any way.

This anniversary seemed a good time to switch roles and throw the challenge back to CERN. Pupils from Jean de la Fontaine (Prévessin-Moëns, France) and Cérésole (Petit-Lancy, Switzerland) schools, who participated in the Be a Scientist project in 2020/2021, have invited the CERN community to take up the mysterious boxes challenge. In the utmost secrecy, the pupils have hidden various objects in two boxes, which they hope will give scientists a hard time and keep them busy for the next six months!

“We challenge you! […] It’s your turn! Write things down so you don’t forget them. We advise you to work as a team, because it’s harder on your own!” (pupil from Cérésole school, Petit-Lancy, Switzerland)

After taking part in the Be a Scientist project in 2020/2021, pupils from Jean de la Fontaine (Prévessin-Moëns, France) and Cérésole (Petit-Lancy, Switzerland) schools in turn produce two mysterious boxes and challenge the CERN community (Video: CERN)

Visit the site voisins.cern for regular updates on the challenge and read more about the progress of the investigations conducted by the CERN community.