Field Trips & PD

LIGO Hanford Observatory regularly hosts field trips for school groups of all ages. Trips provide an opportunity for students to learn about LIGO's search for gravitational waves, to meet and interact with a LIGO scientist or engineer, and to personally explore light, gravity, waves and the galaxy through our hands-on exhibits and activities.


Note:  LIGO Hanford's location isn't recognized by most mapping and direction-finding services. Please check our web-viewable driving directions to help your field trip bus find our facility.


LIGO Hanford Field Trip Frequently Asked Questions

What are the dates/times that LIGO could host a field trip?

LIGO is available on any weekday as long as our calendar is clear.

What will be the cost to my school for a visit?

We offer field trips at no cost through LIGO's support from the National Science Foundation.

How much notice must I give you?

Several weeks' notice is typical, but short notice is often possible. In the spring we host several trips a week, so earlier notice gives you better date selection.

How long does a typical visit last?

We recommend a minimum visit of 2 hours, and 3 - 3.5 hours is the most common visit length (which includes 30 minutes for brown-bag lunches that students bring along).

How many adult chaperones should we bring?

The more chaperones the better as far as LIGO is concerned. We've noticed that students tend to extract more value from field trips in the presence of friendly adult guidance and focusing. LIGO requests roughly one adult for every ten students. Chaperones need not possess technical backgrounds.

What sorts of things will we do on the visit?

The standard field trip components are a welcome and introduction, some hands-on time with our exhibits, a discussion about LIGO from one of our scientists, lunch, and a walking tour of the site including a visit to the control room. We welcome suggestions for maximizing connections to your science teaching. Do you teach an earth science unit? Seismic behavior intimately relates to our interferometers. Chemistry? LIGO houses one of the world's largest ultra-high vacuum environments. Geometry? Our interferometers are, in one sense, huge surveying devices. The theory on which LIGO is based deals with the geometry of curved bodies (curved space in our case).

How can I connect a LIGO field trip to my classroom instruction?

LIGO activity cuts across many science, math and engineering disciplines. Our major themes are gravity, geometry, light, wave behavior/periodic motion, the nature and scale of the universe and the nature of scientific discovery. Our exhibits and activities provide opportunities to address a variety of science standards.

What can I do to help students engage strongly with LIGO?

The "LIGO Explorer" field trip packet that students will receive at LIGO will help guide the students through the hands-on exhibits and activities. Please consider making the packet a class assignment. Students who realize the need to respond to the questions in the packet generally process the exhibits more successfully.

What sort of pre-and post-field trip activities are available for my students?

Check LIGO Hanford's pre-visit and post-visit web pages for links to resources that can help you extract more instructional value from your LIGO field trip.

Won't your science go over the heads of my students?

We strive to design field trips that match the levels and backgrounds of our guests. Hands-on explorations with our exhibits and activities allow students to build a visual and tactile framework for interpreting the science of LIGO.

OK, you've talked me into it. How do I schedule a trip?

Call our outreach coordinator at 509-372-8248 or send an email to outreach@ligo-wa.caltech.edu. We would be pleased to host a visit from your class!