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ReActions – April 2016

From the editor

Janice HeadshotGreetings! I recently joined the American Nuclear Society as Education and Community Outreach Specialist, and am the new ReActions editor. I’m a certified teacher with classroom experience and a Master of Arts in Teaching. I’m excited about bringing you information and inspiration for teaching your students about nuclear science and technology. Please share your ideas for future issues, as I want to hear how you excite your students about the fascinating world of science. You can contact me at I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Janice Lindegard

April 1, 2016 Volume 37
Featured Highlight

What To Do On Your Summer Vacation

Summer break is right around the corner and, while some believe teachers spend it lazing by the pool, you know nothing could be further from the truth. True, you won’t be rising before the sun or grading papers into the night. For many teachers, summer means professional development workshops, training on new school technologies, and attending school curriculum meetings.


Summer is also an ideal time to revise existing lesson plans and develop new ones, like the Mini-Rutherford lesson featured here, in our teacher workshops, and in our Detecting Radiation in our Radioactive World Teacher Resource Guide.  For your students, we’ve put together a list of science-related books to add to summer reading lists. And, when you do get some beach reading time, you’ll want to check out our list of nuclear science blogs we love.

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A favorite in our teacher workshops, the Modeling Atoms Mini-Rutherford lesson uses wooden blocks and marbles to model how Ernest Rutherford discovered the nucleus and electrons.

The teacher covers the blocks with a board, then students roll marbles at the objects and deduce their shapes by observing how the marbles react. The lesson appeals to visual and kinesthetic learning styles as well as students’ love of working together.

Preparing the lesson materials is a great summer activity, requiring only particle board, wood blocks, glue and a bit of Velcro. Many home centers will cut the boards and blocks for a minimal (or no) charge. Or, work with your technology and engineering department  to create the materials. The complete lesson plan is available in Detecting Radiation in our Radioactive World, which is downloadable for free. Attend one of our workshops to receive a durable professionally-printed and bound version.

As you know, student achievement can slip away with the lazy days of summer. Research shows that reading just four books over the break can prevent the summer slide.

Here are some engaging science-focused books to add to students’ summer reading lists. All may be available at local libraries.

Marie Curie: Scientist Who Made Glowing Discoveries andAlbert Einstein: Universal Genius are part of the Getting to Know The World’s Greatest Inventors & Scientists series by Mike Venezia. Both books combine history with quirky comic drawings to make learning fun. Recommended for grades 2-4.

Physical Science Experiments by Aviva Ebner, Ph.D., contains 20 experiments designed for physical science exploration at home or in class. Each experiment features an introduction, materials list, safety precautions, procedures, and questions for discussion, so parents can easily guide budding scientists’ explorations. Grades 5–8.

The Boy Who Played With Fusion, Tom Clynes. At fourteen, Taylor Wilson became the youngest person in history to achieve nuclear fusion.   This true story tells how Taylor, a gifted boy with a passion for nuclear science, went from a small town in Arkansas to giving TED talks and, at just 17, inventing affordable detectors to help keep radioactive materials away from terrorists. Grades 6-12

Magnificent Minds, by Pendred E. Noyce, profiles 16 pioneering women in science and medicine. Included are Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and Lise Meitner, who worked with Otto Hahn to discover nuclear fission—but wasn’t recognized in the Nobel Prize he was awarded for their work. Grades 8-12.

The web is awash with information teachers can use to increase their own knowledge and bring a timely spin to lessons, but wading through it all can be daunting.

Here are a few of our favorite reputable nuclear-related blogs.

ANS Nuclear Cafe

Focusing on “all things nuclear,” this American Nuclear Society blog offers articles on a wide variety of topics by an equally-wide selection of authors. Recent student-friendly articles include a profile of the “real” Albert Einstein and a video of Bill Gates offering his predictions about clean energy.

Nuclear Undone

What student wouldn’t be interested in an open letter to Leonardo DiCaprio about his views on climate change? The letter to Leo is just one of the topical posts on this blog. In addition to general nuclear-related news, there’s also a section on science education, filled with fun ideas for teaching in the STEM classroom.

Things Worse Than Nuclear Power

Enjoy an array of topics in language easy enough for upper-elementary students to understand. Particularly useful are posts comparing nuclear power vs. other sources of energy. Students may be surprised to learn that even wind and solar energy produce waste.

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

The NRC blog covers political, safety , and regulatory issues related to nuclear power. Their Science 101 posts are devoted to clear explanations of all of the steps in creating power, including the structure of an atom, how nuclear reactors work, types of radioactivity, nuclear fuel, and the reactor’s role in generating power.

June 6 - 10, 2016 Nuclear Science and Engineering for Secondary Science Teachers University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Bring a deeper understanding of nuclear science to your teaching. This one-week course, designed specifically for high school science teachers, provides the basics of nuclear science, types of radiation, radiation detection and protection, industrial applications of nuclear science, and current and future nuclear power generation technologies. In addition to classroom work, the course includes demonstrations of reactor control and materials analysis methods, including Neutron Activation Analysis and X-Ray Fluorescence. Tours during the course will include the Callaway Nuclear Center, the University of Missouri’s Research Reactor Facility, and MU’s Nuclear Medicine therapy and diagnostic clinics. SPACE IS LIMITED.

Registration required at:

July 11 – 15 The Science of Nuclear Energy & Radiation Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

The goal of this workshop is to sharpen educators’ knowledge and understanding of nuclear energy and radiation, enabling them to provide students with factual, up-to-date information about nuclear science and technology. The workshop features laboratories and hands-on activities as well as tours of North Anna Nuclear Power Station and VCU’s Nuclear Medicine facilities. Receive a free Geiger-Muller counter to take back to your classroom. Course fee: $75. Deadline: June 10, 2016

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Sign up for ReActions™, the e-newsletter for educators that offers teaching ideas about nuclear science and technology. It is published by the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information, an initiative of the American Nuclear Society, between September and May.

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