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Harnessing Nuclear Energy

Keep Program, University of Wisconsin

This activity teaches students how energy is obtained from nuclear fission and how it is used to produce electricity in a nuclear power plant. It also teaches students how some of the electricity they use is produced.

This activity takes two 50 minute class periods

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This lesson includes a step-by-step procedure for instructors to follow.
  • Review the steps to the paper-throwing activity to ensure it is orchestrated as intended (not a game of dodgeball; stay on topic).
  • The two readings could be completed using a jigsaw approach, as homework assignments, or model-based learning about nuclear fusion.
  • Resource focuses on the science behind and positives of nuclear energy, but it may be useful to also cover the negatives of nuclear energy.
  • The learning objective related to 'formulate an opinion on nuclear energy' likely needs more information/counterpoints (e.g. Chernobyl and Yucca Mountain - what to do with accidents as well as waste products). If students explore both the positives and negatives, this could also be used as a debate or problem-based learning activity.

About the Science

  • Students simulate a nuclear chain reaction and read about how a nuclear reactor works.
  • Students will be able to explain how energy is obtained from nuclear fission, compare controlled and uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions and describe how a nuclear reactor uses nuclear energy to produce electricity.
  • The references for this activity are from 1985, 1986, and 1994; however, references for more recent resources are provided at the end of the activity.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Part of the lesson includes a reading/respond to questions activity, which could potentially be done in an online teaching environment.
  • Answers to questions are not provided.
  • The science provided in the activity about nuclear power is supported by background information provided for the teacher and student.
  • The activity claims this is for middle school whereas the content may not be appropriate for that age group. Please see NGSS-PS4.D for grades 9-12. The demonstration may be appropriate for grades 5-8, but the instructor would likely have to create the readings and handouts themselves, as the ones provided are too technical for this level.
Entered the Collection: November 2021 Last Reviewed: July 2021

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