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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

As common core moves us towards teaching reading in all classrooms, here Drl Robbin Nichol of RSU 73 gives us some ideas.

I have just completed the radio-chemistry unit with my Tech Chem students. Bearing in mind that most students knowledge of radiation is from misinformed popular journalism, Hollywood (I wouldn't even give them the description of misinformed for the baloney they serve up), and video games, this unit is usually the first time they have been introduced to the facts concerning nuclear power, radiation and risk. Risk is a particularly tricky one for teenagers, in a world where it is either right or wrong most teenagers find it very difficult to assess and understand risk. This unit introduces all aspects of radioactivity to the students; its natural existence; the use of nuclear power, how it works and the risks and challenges it presents; elemental transmutation and how the elements are constructed; the different kinds of radioactivity their discovery and their detection; nuclear fission and fusion and its uses for good and not so good. This latter part involves the examination of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (I use the movie "White Light Black Rain" for this); examination of the Chernobyl disaster and the Three Mile Island incident along with the movie "China Syndrome and the effects these had on the American perception of nuclear power and its risks. Students work on Radioactive Decay charts and chains and using problem solving strategies to predict products, precursors and radioactive emissions and to round off the unit we watch a portrayal of the investigation of the Chernobyl disaster, following all of this as a tying up the loose ends exercise we use this piece as a little bit of a brain stretcher to get the less reading/writing orientated students to use and develop their expository skills. It usually starts with howls of protest but they calm down relatively quickly when they realize that the information is all there for them and all they really have to do is to extract it and define it.