Research shows mid and lower ability students find the particle model of matter difficult so introducing radioactivity in terms of atomic and nuclear structure is unhelpful! Start from the phenomena you can demonstrate, e.g. effects getting smaller with distance from source or which materials radiation can and can’t penetrate. Models of microscopic processes can help students develop understanding but may also add to misconceptions – important that students question the model
Links and Resources
Many teachers are apprehensive at the thought of teaching radioactivity so this is a good place to start. This well produced film from Teachers TV is designed for teachers rather than students and will help build the confidence of those teaching this topic for the first time and/or those who are outside their specialist area. Lots of demonstrations with radioactive sources are explained clearly. Also included are a good number of activities on this theme that students can carry out for themselves; always a good idea
This resource pack was influenced by the misunderstandings revealed by the reporting of the Chernobyl accident. Many newspaper articles referred to the ‘cloud of radiation’ which had escaped from the reactor, and warned people not to drink rainwater or milk because they ‘contain radiation’. All the lessons are fully supported by photocopiable student materials together with detailed teachers' notes.
In this experiment, students see how cloud and bubble chambers can be used to detect sub-atomic particles. It explores the principle that, in general, detectors work by analyzing particle collisions using conservation laws (momentum, energy, charge). The concepts explored in this practical include:
- The basis of particle detectors
- Cloud chambers and spark detectors
- Explaining and interpreting tracks
These activities have been developed from SEPnet’s (South East Physics Network) GCSE programme. The themes include electrostatics, electromagnetism, heat transfer, light, waves and radioactivity. Each activity has an equipment list, instructions for the experiment, background scientific information and tips for success.
This Catalyst article looks at how humans are exposed to radiation from many different sources, including food. The article describes the doses of radiation from sources such as:
- building materials and rocks
- bone scans
- cosmic rays
- radon gas
The article illustrates the constant exposure to background radiation and can be used to promote an understanding of the assessment of risk.
This article looks at Marie Curie, who discovered two radioactive elements and showed that radioactivity was a property of atoms, not compounds.
This book, published by the Association for Science Education (ASE) and The British Society for the History of Science, celebrates the life and work of Marie Curie and the subsequent developments in radiochemistry.
The book focuses on the development and applications of radiochemistry and is set out in a collection of units which include teachers' notes and student sheets. Each unit can stand alone and differs in style. Some may be more suitable for Key Stage Three students while others are more appropriate for Key Stage Four and above
This article is about radiation and the many uses it has in medicine, both in finding out what is wrong with a patient (diagnosis) and in the treatment of cancer (therapy). The radiation used in medicine can come from electromagnetic radiation or from radioactive materials such as isotopes; the scanners using these technologies are also explained
A Catalyst article about how people can work more safely with radiation. Radiation protection is a specialised area of health and safety. It deals with the protection of workers, patients, the general public, organisations and the environment. It is concerned with the use of two types of radiation:
*ionising radiation (e.g. X-ray machines,radioactive materials)
*non-ionising radiation (e.g. lasers, ultraviolet light and electromagnetic fields).
A Catalyst article about the safe use of radiation. Radioactive materials are hazardous because they give out ionising radiation. Like many scientific discoveries, radioactivity provokes a mixed reaction. Some seek to commercialise it whilst films and comic books emphasise its harmful effects. The article takes the form of a collage of adverts and posters.