Reflection: Lesson Planning Nuclear Decay Series - Section 1: Background


In my second year teaching nuclear chemistry to general education students, I have continued to struggle with context and applications.  This lesson is very much a plug and chug exercise to see if students can apply what they did with alpha and beta decay in previous lessons in an integrated format.

One of the reasons for this is the fact that our district curriculum chose to not include half lives in our curriculum, per the NGSS assessment boundaries.  Taking an isotope from our opening video on the Fukushima accident and tracing it to becoming stable would be a more valuable exercise, but is not as effective without talking about the half lives of the various isotopes.

Likewise, I struggled to find complete decay series that were only alpha and beta decay.  Wikipedia had a number of them, but choosing, and then following the various potential branches, was troublesome.  My 2nd period found a number of errors as I created the worksheet from Wikipedia without realizing how certain isotopes could decay via EITHER alpha or beta, and how the pathway changed as a result.

This unit can be designed in a much more contextual manner, and I'd strongly recommend checking out my colleague Eric Girard's nuclear unit to see it taught in a more hands-on fashion.

  Finding your way through the standards
  Lesson Planning: Finding your way through the standards
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Nuclear Decay Series

Unit 4: Nuclear Chemistry
Lesson 5 of 7

Objective: SWBAT showcase their understanding of alpha and beta decay, and combine these processes in a decay series diagram.

Big Idea: Many radioactive isotopes go through many steps to become stable.

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decay series
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