The following is the abstract of a presentation given at the 2008 National Science Teachers' Association Conference (Boston, MA) with Steve Fernandez. Steve and I developed this activity while I was a GK-12 Fellow in his AP Physics class at the John D. O'Bryant School of Math & Science.
Nuclear physics is a topic in many high school physics curricula, yet it can be a very challenging topic to engage students on. The concepts are difficult to connect to every-day experience, and labs are often infeasible, as they would involve hazardous radioactive materials! Nonetheless, the topic is very important to understanding both the physical world and many pressing social issues. In our session, we will share an activity we developed in which students debate three topics related to nuclear physics: Should we bury our nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain? Should we build more nuclear power plants? Should we develop low-yield nuclear bunker buster weapons? This activity challenges students to put their understanding of nuclear physics to use on these important questions while emphasizing the strong connection between science and society. Our experience using this activity with an AP Physics class was very positive, and we believe any high school physics class could implement the activity successfully.
Here is the handout we used for the debates: Handout.doc
Created 20 Sep 2007 * Updated 12 May 2008