Nuclear science is the study of the atomic world. Atoms are the building blocks of all matter, and everything around us, including our bodies, is made of atoms.
Students can explore the ways nuclear science impacts our world in these books:
Who Split The Atom? by Anna Claybourne Using a DK-like format, it explores the early history and research into the structure of atoms, the periodic table, radioactivity, and atomic science. Loaded with photographs, graphics, “That’s A Fact!,” “Breakthrough,” and scientific sidebars, as well as vignettes of scientists, it is an accessible and engaging introduction to radioactivity.
Atomic Universe: The Quest To Discover Radioactivity by Kate Boehm Jerome This National Geographic book uses a running timeline across the top of the pages (from 1800 to 1971), photographs, mini-biographies, and “science booster” sidebars to interest high-low readers in an introductory overview of radioactivity, atomic science, and nuclear reactors.
How is nuclear energy produced? In nuclear fission, the nucleus of a uranium atom splits into tiny atoms. The splitting produces two or three free neutrons and releases a large amount of energy. In a nuclear reactor, fission is used to make atomic energy. Divide students into groups and have each group research the process of nuclear fission. Each group should create a visual demonstration of nuclear fission and present it to the class. Get creative!
Meltdown: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima by Deirdre Langeland On March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake ever measured in Japan occurred off the northeast coast. It triggered a tsunami with a wall of water 128 feet high that ripped apart homes and schools, damaging Fukushima’s nuclear power plant and causing a nuclear meltdown. Chapters describe the events as well as the science of nuclear reactors. Each section begins with a readout of reactor status, from “offline” to “meltdown” with the last chapter exploring lessons learned.
Nuclear energy is a much-debated topic. In this activity, students will decide whether or not to support building a nuclear power plant in their town to provide electricity and replace fossil fuel-generated electricity. Divide the class into two groups – one group will support the building of the nuclear power plant, while the other group will oppose it. Have each group research nuclear energy and power and find facts and arguments to support their point of view. Hold a classroom debate and have each side present their strongest arguments for and against the nuclear power plant.
Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling This gripping dual biography provides an in-depth look at the discoveries, life-long personal sacrifices, and professional struggles that Irène Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie made in discovering artificial radiation and Lise Meitner made in discovering nuclear fission. It also touches on Marie and Pierre Curie’s discovery of natural radiation, society’s grappling with radiation, World War II, and the atomic bomb. Includes a timeline, Who’s Who section, black and white photos, and fascinating sidebars further explaining the science.
Radiation exists all around us. It is produced as unstable atoms undergo radioactive decay, and travels as energy waves or energized particles. There are many different forms of radiation, each with its own properties and effects. What sources of radiation are you exposed to in your daily life? Have students research radiation sources and create a list of exposures. They can use this calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate their annual radiation dose. What can students do to reduce or limit radiation exposure in their lives?
Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and a dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her online at http://www.carlamooney.com, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, Instagram @moonwriter25, and Twitter @carlawrites.