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Radiation Education Activities

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EPA's Radiation Education Activities are designed to help increase awareness and understanding of radiation concepts among middle and high school students. The activities introduce basic concepts of radiation, non-ionizing and ionizing radiation, radiation protection, radioactive atoms and radioactive decay. With a better scientific understanding of radiation science, students will be able identify sources of non-ionizing and ionizing radiation in our world. Students will examine how they may be exposed to ionizing radiation, evaluate the benefits and risks associated with exposure and learn to identify situations in which they may choose to control or limit their exposure to ionizing radiation.

Download the Vocabulary Materials (PDF) (92 pp, 4Mb, About PDF) to introduce and define radiation terms used in the activities. Click each tab to select and download activities.

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

The Radiation Protection activities introduce students to the history of radiation protection, the concepts and devices used in radiation protection, careers in radiation protection, emergency planning and response, and laws that protect us.

Download the Radiation Protection Activity Set (PDF) (58 pp, 4Mb, About PDF) or individual activities listed in the following table.

Lesson Objectives Time Next Generation Science Standards Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

Teacher Background Information (PDF) (3 pp, 900K, About PDF

This background information should be used as a supplement to the activity plans provided. It is highly recommended that educators download and review this material prior to using the activities in the classroom.

     

Vocabulary Activities (PDF) (2 pp, 164K, About PDF)

Students will be introduced to the vocabulary used in the Radiation Protection activities.

15-60 minutes (depending on activity)  

CCSS English Language Arts Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6-12.6.

CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.2
  • Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.4
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6-12.6

Activity 1: History of Radiation Protection (PDF) (20 pp, 1.82Mb, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Learn about and create a timeline of the history of radiation protection.
  •  Research and discover how radiation protection practices were developed.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.7
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.9

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS Mathematics Standards:

  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.NS.C.7.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.4.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSS.ID.A.1.

Activity 2: Time, Distance and Shielding (PDF) (5 pp, 621K, About PDF

Students will investigate how time, distance and shielding can reduce exposure risks.

1-2 class periods

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Text Types and Purposes: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.2
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.7

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS Mathematics Standards:

  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1
  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2
  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.B.4.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSN.Q.A.1.

Activity 3: Radiation Warning and Protection Equipment (PDF) (6 pp, 411K, About PDF

Students will:

  • Interpret the meaning of several radiation warning signs.
  • Investigate how radiation protection technology and equipment are used to protect workers, the public and our environment.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2

Activity 4: Buildings as Shielding (PDF) (8 pp, 580K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Tour a fallout shelter or research information about fallout shelters.
  • Examine the concepts of buildings as shielding and shelter in place.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2
  • Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.4
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.9

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS Mathematics Standards:

  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.3.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.SP.A.1.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSN.Q.A.1.

Activity 5: A Career in Radiation Protection (PDF) (3 pp, 360K, About PDF)

Students will research and compare career opportunities in the field of radiation protection.

1-2 class periods

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.2
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.7
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.8
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.9
  • Production and Distribution of Writing: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.4
  • Production and Distribution of Writing: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6

Activity 6: Impact of Radiological Emergencies (PDF) (3 pp, 270K, About PDF

Students will:

  • Examine a radiation emergency.
  • Explain the impacts it had on public health and the environment.
  • Identify the parties who respond to radiation emergencies.

1-2 class periods

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

ESS3. Human Impact

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.2
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.7
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.7
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.8
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.9
  • Production and Distribution of Writing: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.4
  • Production and Distribution of Writing: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.6

Activity 7: Benefits of Radiation (PDF) (4 pp, 266K, About PDF

Students will examine how radiation is often used in devices and processes that help protect us and ensure our safety.

1-2 class periods

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

ESS3. Human Impact

The concepts in this activity align with the following CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.7
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.8
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.9
  • Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.2
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.7

 

These activities are designed to help students identify the structure of an atom and describe the structural changes that occur in unstable (radioactive) atoms as they decay. Students will learn about the Rutherford-Bohr Theory of Atomic Structure and will use the periodic table to determine an element's atomic structure. Students will also learn about the process of radioactive decay and the types of ionizing radiation emitted from radioactive atoms as they decay. Additionally, students will learn about commonly encountered radioactive elements, fission and fusion.

Download the Evolution of a Radioactive Atom Activity Set (PDF) (44 pp, 2Mb, About PDF) or individual activities listed in the following table.

Lesson Objectives Time Next Generation Science Standards
Teacher Background Information (PDF) (4 pp, 183.71K, About PDF) This background information should be used as a supplement to the activity plans provided. It is highly recommended that educators download and review this material prior to using the activities in the classroom.

   
Vocabulary Activities (PDF) (2 pp, 252K, About PDF) Students will be introduced to the vocabulary used in the Evolution of the Radioactive Atom activities. 15-60 minutes (depending on activity)  
Activity 1: Atomic Discoveries (PDF) (5 pp, 306K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Simulate Ernest Rutherford's Gold Foil Experiment.
  • Explain how the Rutherford-Bohr Theory of Atomic Structure helps provide us with a basic understanding of atomic structure.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

Activity 2: Atomic Math and Shorthand (PDF) (7 pp, 562K, About PDF)

Students will use information from the periodic table to calculate the number of protons, neutrons and electrons in a neutral atom.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

Activity 3: Strong Nuclear Forces (PDF) (5 pp, 279K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Learn about the delicate balance of forces that hold an atom together while electromagnetic forces try to pull the atom apart.
  • Discuss what occurs when the balance of forces is upset.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

PS2. Forces and Interactions

Activity 4: Atomic Stability (PDF) (5 pp, 295K, About PDF)

Students will learn what happens as atoms attempt to reach stability.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

Activity 5: Half-Life (PDF) (6 pp, 310K, About PDF)

Students will

  • Learn about radioactive decay and decay chains.
  • Demonstrate the concept of half-life.
  • Calculate and chart the half-life of a given sample.
  • Discuss the significance of knowing the half-life of radioactive elements.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

Activity 6: Radioactive Decay Chain (PDF) (7 pp, 496K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Learn about radioactive decay and decay chains.
  • Observe a decay chain.
  • Identify types of radiation emitted with each step in the decay chain.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

Radiation is energy that travels in the form of waves and makes up the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum is divided into two major categories: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. This activity is designed to help students understand the properties of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. With this understanding, students will be able identify sources of non-ionizing and ionizing radiation in our world. Students will also examine how they may be exposed to ionizing radiation, evaluate the benefits and risks associated with radiation exposure, and identify situations in which they may choose to control or limit their exposure to ionizing radiation. Students will also learn about the penetrating powers of different types of radiation and with this knowledge they can correct the myths associated with radiation exposure.

Download the Radiation Exposure Activity Set (48 pp, 2.31Mb, About PDF) or individual activities listed in the following table.

Lesson Objectives Time Next Generation Science Standards
Teacher Background Information (PDF) (3 pp, 394K, About PDF) This background information should be used as a supplement to the activity plans provided. It is highly recommended that educators download and review this material prior to using the activities in the classroom.

   
Vocabulary Activities (PDF) (3 pp, 202.79K, About PDF) Students will be introduced to the vocabulary used in the Radiation Exposure activities. 15-60 minutes (depending on activity)  
Activity 1: Types of Radiation (PDF) (9 pp, 460K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Differentiate between non-ionizing and ionizing radiation.
  • Explore real-world sources of each.
  • Gain an increased awareness of their everyday exposure to radiation.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Activity 2: Sources of Annual Radiation Exposure (PDF) (8 pp, 505K, About PDF)

Students will

  • Predict and graph Americans annual exposure to background (natural) and man-made radiation sources.
  • Compare their predictions to data from the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP).
  • Define and classify sources of radiation exposure.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Activity 3: Penetrating Powers of Ionizing Radiation (PDF) (6 pp, 344K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Predict whether each type of ionizing radiation has the ability to penetrate (pass through) our skin and body.
  • Demonstrate the penetrating powers of ionizing radiation.
  • Consider how we are exposed to radiation and how we can limit our exposure.
  • Differentiate between radiation exposure and radiation contamination.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Activity 4: Exposure Pathways (PDF) (3 pp, 421K, About PDF)

Students will

  • Identify sources of radiation exposure.
  • Diagram exposure pathways.
  • Assess the benefits and risks of radiation exposure.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

LS2. Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

Activity 5: Radiation Health Effects (PDF) (2 pp, 226K, About PDF)

Students will

  • Identify sources of radiation exposure.
  • Research the uses and health effects.
  • Assess the benefits and risks of radiation exposure.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Activity 6: Acute versus Chronic Exposure PDF) (3 pp, 231K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Develop a basic understanding of acute and chronic radiation exposure.
  • Differentiate between the two terms.

1-2 class periods

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Activity 7: Radiation: Fact or Fiction? (PDF) (8 pp, 246K, About PDF)

Students will examine their understanding of radiation as well as any misconceptions they have about exposure.

45-60 minutes

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

The Radon activities introduce middle and high school students to radon's physical properties and its health effects. The activities encourage students to test their homes and implement ways to reduce their exposure to radon.  In these activities, students will examine how radon moves through the ground and enters homes and buildings through cracks and gaps. The students will discover solutions that can be used to reduce elevated radon levels. Students will evaluate sample radon readings and determine if fixes need to be made to the home. Students may also test their own homes using a short-term test kit and analyze their own readings. The unit ends with a look at radon's decay chain, the half-life of radon, and how these by-products can get trapped in the lungs and cause cancer.

Download the Radon Activity Set (PDF) (33 pp, 1.54Mb, About PDF) or individual activities listed in the following table.

Lesson Objectives Time Next Generation Science Standards

Teacher Background Information (PDF)(3 pp,311K, About PDF)

This background information should be used as a supplement to the activity plans provided. It is highly recommended that educators download and review this material prior to using the activities in the classroom.    

Vocabulary Activities (PDF)(2 pp, 114K, About PDF)

Students will: be introduced to the vocabulary used in the Tribal Radon activities. 15 - 60 minutes (depending on activity)  

Activity 1: Ground Up (PDF) (7 pp, 344K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Predict whether they live in an area where the potential average indoor radon levels are low, moderate or high.
  • Investigate why indoor radon levels vary.
  • Conduct experiments to investigate the movement of radon through the ground.

45-60 minutes

ESS2. Earth's Systems

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 2: Radon Vacuum (PDF) (5 pp, 294K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Hypothesize how their home can act like a vacuum, drawing radon in.
  • Conduct an experiment and demonstrate how homes act like a vacuum.
  • Hypothesize or demonstrate ways to prevent radon from entering the home or ways to vent the radon out of the home.

45-60 minutes

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

ETS1. Engineering Design

Activity 3: Indoor Radon Levels (PDF) (5 pp, 312K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Learn about types of radon testing.
  • Analyze radon testing data.
  • Compare the data with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recommendations.
  • Recommend whether to fix the radon levels based in the average indoor radon level.
30-45 minutes, not including optional activities or extensions

ESS2. Earth's Systems

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 4: The Half-Life of Radon (PDF) (8 pp, 240K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Learn about radioactive decay, decay chains and how radon forms radioactive products or particles that can be harmful.
  • Demonstrate the concept of half-life.
  • Calculate and chart the half-life of a given sample.
  • Discuss the significance of knowing the half-life of radioactive elements.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

The Tribal Uranium activities are designed to help middle and high school students learn about the significance of uranium and its decay products, such as radium and radon, and examine related radiation myths and facts. These activities were designed with students that live in Tribal lands in mind. Students will learn about the penetrating powers and effects of radiation and analyze the benefits and impacts of radiation exposure. Students will also explore uranium and radiation-related science and engineering jobs. With a greater understanding of uranium and radiation, students can dispel myths and fears and be advocates for their community.

Download the Tribal Uranium Activity Set (40 pp, 2.06Mb, About PDF) or individual activities listed in the following table.

Lesson
Objectives Time Next Generation Science Standards
Teacher Background Information (PDF)(5 pp, 421K, About PDF) This background information should be used as a supplement to the activity plans provided. It is highly recommended that educators download and review this material prior to using the activities in the classroom.    

Vocabulary Activities (PDF) (3 pp, 131K, About PDF)

Students will be introduced to the vocabulary used in the Tribal Uranium activities. 15-60 minutes (depending on activity)  

Activity 1: Uranium, Radium and Radon (PDF) (6 pp, 585K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Determine the atomic structures of uranium, radium and radon.
  • Describe the characteristics of each.
  • Examine the benefits and risks of each.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 2: Radiation and Uranium Myths and Facts (PDF) (6 pp, 251K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Explore their views of radiation and uranium.
  • Assess their knowledge of radiation and uranium.
  • Examine and correct any radiation and uranium misconceptions they may have.

45-60 minutes

PS1. Structure and Properties of Matter

PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 3: Uranium Ore Sources in the U.S. (PDF)(5 pp,279K, About PDF)

Students will examine the benefits and impacts of uranium and uranium mining.

1-2 class periods

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 4: Uranium Mining Method (PDF) (5 pp, 256K, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Hypothesize and list the benefits and impacts of mining methods.
  • Consider whether they would be for or against a particular mining method being used in their community.

1-2 class periods

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 5: Radiation Contamination and Exposure (PDF)(3 pp, 299K, About PDF)

Students will

  • Develop a radiation web or model to show how radiation can contaminate the environment, animals and people.
  • Examine the three main exposure pathways: inhalation, ingestion and direct (external) exposure; and basic radiation protection measures.

1-2 class periods

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

Activity 6: Radiation Cleanup and Advocacy (PDF) (40 pp, 2.06Mb, About PDF)

Students will:

  • Investigate how people and the environment have been impacted by radiation-related events.
  • Examine what cleanup and advocacy efforts have been, or need to be, completed related to these events.
  • Identify advocacy efforts that they or others can implement.

1-2 class periods

ESS3. Earth and Human Activity

The Vocabulary Materials are designed to introduce topics and terms related to radiation that are used throughout the activity sets.

Lesson Objectives Time Next Generation Science Standards Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

Vocabulary Materials (PDF) (92 pp, 4Mb, About PDF)

To provide students with a shared base knowledge of the vocabulary for the activities

Time will vary if conducting one or more vocabulary activities for one or more radiation activities.  

CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:

  • Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.2
  • Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.4
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6-12.6

Vocabulary activities: Full Descriptions of English Standards

Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-12.4

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6-12.6

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6-8.6. Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.9-10.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.11-12.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

 

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