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Teaching 7th Graders the Science Behind Radon

Teaching 7th Graders the Science Behind Radon

To prepare students to participate in the National Radon Poster Contest, Robert McLellan of the Todd County Health Department in Kentucky taught 7th grade science students about radon – infusing awareness with the science class’s curriculum.

One hundred and twenty-five students at Todd County Middle School learned about the periodic table of elements, radioactive decay and the make-up of atoms. To teach them about how radon and other elements’ atoms are formed, Robert used a hands-on activity to show students how to “build” their own atom nuclei. Reese’s Puffs cereal was used to represent neutrons and protons – the peanut butter Puffs being protons and the chocolate being neutrons. For students with peanut allergies, Apple Jacks cereal was used as a replacement. The students then learned how to find the number of neutrons by subtracting the atomic number from the rounded atomic mass.

In an effort to start the conversation on radioactive decay, the students watched an animation on radon decay and its daughter products. To further understand this process, the student ate a few of their sub-atomic particles – the peanut butter protons and chocolate neutrons – and then determined which element their particle “decayed” into.

The importance of radon testing and mitigation was also covered, as students were taught that radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas. Robert explained the health effect associate with high radon levels and the threat that it can pose in terms of lung cancer.

To test the students on their retention and how well they grasped the subject matter, Robert conducted pre- and post quizzes for one of the classes with 28 students and witnessed an increase of nearly 16 percent in average scores.

User photo for: Anita A. Britt

love the cereal idea! great job!

User photo for: Gina Bowler

Would you consider posting the pre- and post-quizzes?