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Bringing Nuclear into the Classroom
CNTA and the local section of the American Nuclear Society (ANS-SR) jointly developed and implemented a workshop for middle school and high school teachers called "Bringing Nuclear into the Classroom." The first teacher workshop was held in March of 2009. Sessions were taught by CNTA and ANS-SR volunteers with diverse and extensive experience in the field and in the classroom. The workshop was then modified dramatically to include more hands-on activities that teachers could potentially use to excite students in their classrooms, based on teacher feedback from that initial workshop.
A small group of "cohort" teachers from both Georgia and South Carolina middle schools helped create a workshop that is both fun and informative. The current workshop includes hands-on styled presentations featuring the following topics: Atomic Fundamentals, Power Generation Fundamentals, Nuclear Fundamentals, Nuclear Technology Applications, Risk (Real versus Perceived), and Regional Nuclear Technology Uses and Opportunities. A workshop was presented to regional teachers in 2011 and two more workshops were conducted in 2012. Summer interns (about 50) from one of the primary contractors at SRS, Savannah River Remediation (SRR), participated in additional workshops during the summer of 2012. Plans for 2013 include at least three teachers' workshops along with presentations for interns of both of the prime contractors at SRS, i.e., SRR and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (about 100 total). The workshops have been so well received that initial planning has started for an advanced course for those with broader interest.
As the teacher workshops matured, ANS-SR developed two unique hands-on tools to help students and teachers more easily understand nuclear structure and how that structure is utilized in all nuclear technologies. The first of these unique tools, developed in partnership with CNTA, is the free-standing "Interactive Nucleus" display. In this display, red and blue ping pong balls represent protons and neutrons. Students and teachers use the Interactive Nucleus display by using different combinations of "protons" and "neutrons" to create their own "nucleus." Students place the balls into holes in the display's tabletop. The display then automatically determines the number of each colored ball and displays an audio and visual presentation describing properties and uses of the isotope that was created.
The second unique tool is an "Interactive Chart of the Nuclides" kit that helps demonstrate the relationship between isotopes on a Periodic Table and a Chart of the Nuclides. The Interactive Chart of the Nuclides is used to help show the relationship between isotopes on a Periodic Table and a Chart of the Nuclides. Students and teachers use small colored tiles that represent stable, radioactive, and unstable isotopes to build a 3D Periodic Table with all isotopes from Hydrogen to Potassium. This 3D table is then converted to a 2D Chart of the Nuclides in which the colored tiles form a Line of Stability that becomes apparent to the participants. The Interactive Chart of the Nuclides helps develop an understanding of isotopes, and supports deeper learning when using the Interactive Nucleus display.
Additional sponsors include the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center (RPSEC) at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, Energy Solutions, the SRS- Community Reuse Organization (SRS-CRO), and the Aiken Rotary Club, making this a community-wide effort. The workshops and other CNTA educational activities are coordinated by the CNTA Education Committee (EDcom). For more information, contact the EDcom Chair, Mel Buckner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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