Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Fission vs Fusion - Section 5: Application


In this unit I am trying a different approach. In the past, I have had students start the research project after they have learned about the nuclear chemistry topics of fission and fusion, half-life, nuclear decay, and the biological effects of radiation. This year, I decided to give students the research project right away, at the beginning of the unit.


I chose this approach for a number of reasons. First, it offers students more variety. We can spend some days of a given week on the project, and some days learning about concepts. It gives students more time to think about their project—weeks instead of days. This percolating time is important for student learning. Another benefit to this approach is that by spreading the project out over a number of weeks students who are sick for a few days do not miss a significant chunk of work time. It also helps procrastinators to recover from failing to do the project for a few days. We have February vacation in the middle of the unit, so students who are behind have a chance to catch up.


One thing I wonder about this approach is how well they will understand all of their research articles while they are still learning nuclear chemistry. My hope is that they will read about some of the topics and connect back to the articles when they have learned about a topic. For example, they may not understand completely about the biological effects of radiation, but after learning about this in a lesson they may more fully understand an article about radiation that they already took notes on. In this way, I hope that the research process will breed curiosity and the chance to connect our textbook topics to things that are going on in the world today.

  The Timing of the Project
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: The Timing of the Project
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Fission vs Fusion

Unit 9: Nuclear Chemistry
Lesson 4 of 13

Objective: Students will be able to explain the difference between fission and fusion, and explain how these processes relate to energy.

Big Idea: When the nuclei undergo fission (the splitting of an atom) or fusion (when two atoms combine) tremendous amounts of energy is released.

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