What are the Effects of Nuclear Power?

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Objective

SWBAT compare misconceptions of nuclear energy in an effort to create a position on the use of nuclear power.

Big Idea

Controversial topics are fantastic position writing activities. Students analyze nuclear power and read about the Chernobyl disaster to determine their own position, based upon evidence.

Anticipate

10 minutes

I ask the students to consider the U.S. use of Nuclear energy. The students have been taught my lesson Exploring Nuclear Energy. I ask, "What are some advantages and disadvantages of Nuclear Energy." Students respond with ideas about the nuclear waste and melt downs. I introduce the lesson by saying, We are going to examine some myths about nuclear energy. Then we are going to read about a nuclear accident that happened in Russia in the 1980's. 

Collaborate

20 minutes

The lesson begins with students reading the Top 10 Myths About Nuclear Energy. My intention is to offer them an opportunity to read about common misconceptions about nuclear energy in an effort to reflect upon how the misconceptions impact the energy industry.

Before reading, I explain that students need to look over the authors of references to get a good idea of what they might say. I explain that I am going to give them an article from the American Nuclear Society (located in our city). I ask, "What do you think the article will say?" We discuss how it may be slanted toward one way of thinking but will still contain truths. 

Students read the article over once to collect vocabulary words for our word wall and to ask any questions. They read over the material again to respond to reflection questions. My strategy is to help students focus on what they think is important. I ask them to reflect on three questions:

  1. What surprised you about the 10 Myths and why?
  2. What were the most interesting myths and why?
  3. What myth do you think is most damaging to the nuclear power industry and why?

 To read what my students wrote, check out  Myths Reflection

RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.

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.

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.

Critically Think

20 minutes

My next strategy is to offer students a different view of Nuclear energy. I explain that a horrible accident happened in Russia. The article is titled Backgrounder on Chernobyl. I explain that the next article is written by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I ask, "What do you think they will say in their article?" My strategy is to promote the idea of considering the author of articles when reading scientific resources.

We begin by looking over unknown words in the article. My strategy is to promote scientific vocabulary. I add the words to my Word Wall. The purpose of the Word Wall is to give the students a visual reference for their writing. 

Students read the article about Chernobyl, using the Jigsaw Cooperative Learning strategy. In this strategy each student in a group reads one paragraph out loud to the others.  I use the jigsaw for two reasons. The material is emotional at times and boring at times. I want students to use their listening skills as well as their reading skills. In addition, the report is technical and if there are questions, students can help one another as they read. 

In a Concept Map, students respond to three different prompts: What happened? What were the effects? What is being done to prevent another catastrophe? Student groups read the article and populate the concept maps. Class groups add their concept map answers to a larger post it poster sized concept map. There are lots of questions about the disaster. This is a great way to build culture in the classroom by having an informal discussion about a historical topic. I have found that in the discussion it helps to review my Law of Conservation of Energy lesson to discuss how the energy transferred.

 

MS-ESS-3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the advancement of technologies to mitigate their effects.)

RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.

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.

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.

RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.

Communicate

20 minutes

I begin by asking my students, "What do you think? Are the benefits worth it?" My strategy is a Task Template from the Literacy Design Collaborative.

 Task 1 Template (Argumentation/Analysis ): After researching the impacts of nuclear energy on society (content), write a five to seven sentence summary  that argues your position on the future of nuclear energy in the United States. Support your position with at least three statistics or facts from your reading. Be sure to acknowledge competing views. Give examples from the articles we read to illustrate and clarify your position. 

To help students organize the information, I give them a 3 x 3 box. My strategy is to allow the students to look at both sides of a position to determine which is a stronger position to take.  

After the summary writing, I conduct a debate. Using their summaries as a reference, students debated the pros and cons of nuclear energy. 

W 8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.