Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Sub Image2:Macro to Micro Structures
1) Atoms and Molecules2) Macro to Micro Structures 3) Energetics and Dynamics
4) Theory and Practice in Chemical Systems5) Chemical Design6) The Chemistry of Life7) Chemistry and the Environment8) Chemistry at the Interface

Unit 3.6 Radioactivity
This unit emphasizes the importance and difficulty of understanding concepts related to radioactivity. Ways to facilitate students’ understanding are presented.
Video program cues: 33:25 — 44:15

Teaching about radiation

"I think it is the same as Mme. Curie said: that nothing is to be feared, only understood. What I try to make the students aware of on the first day of a nuclear chemistry lecture course is that there’s a whole continuum of radiation, and it’s a natural thing. We go all the way from radio waves which are long and not so energetic, through micro waves through infra-red, through UV through X-rays, through gamma rays, through cosmic rays. This is a natural thing that’s been going on for billions of years. Since the synthesis of the elements in our solar system, uranium and other naturally radioactive isotopes have been decaying, so there’s less radioactivity now than there used to be."

Dr. Darleane Hoffman
Professor of Chemistry, UC - Berkeley


Venable, M.H (1998)' Reviews a Book: A Devotion to Their Science: Pioneer Women of Radioactivity (edited by Marlene F. Rayner-Canham and Geoffrey W. Rayner-Canham), 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 75, No. 2, pp: 151.

Half-life and M&Ms activity

Kelly Rottmann teaches half-life in an activity where M&Ms are used as analogies to radioactive elements.



  • A complete lesson plan for teaching half-life. Includes links to two other lessons on isotopes and carbon dating.
  • Extensive pages from Lawrence National Lab. Be sure to click on "Basic Nuclear Science" and "Experiments".

Hughes, E.A.; Zalts, A.(2000)' Radioactivity in the Classroom, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 77, No. 5, pp: 613-614.

Measuring radioactivity
"This is the kind of little solid state detector we use for alpha and fission counting. They are surface barrier detectors, and they have a thin gold coating on the top. On this kind of detector, we turn the sample and count and then we evacuate the chamber and we record it through these various amplifiers, and we can count both alpha particles, which, as I said, are the nucleus of the helium atom and most of the heavy elements decay by alpha emission, and sometimes spontaneous fission, which is similar to the neutron-induced fission in reactors, and so forth."

Dr. Darleane Hoffman
Professor of Chemistry, VC - Berkeley

Wiesner, E. and Settle, F. Jr. (2001)' Politics, Chemistry, and the Discovery of Nuclear Fission, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 78, No. 7, pp: 889-895.

Dagani, R. (2000)' Small-Town Iowa Girl Makes Good, 'Chemical And Engineering News, Vol. 78, No. 13, pp. 31-35.


Radioactive sources laboratory

Veatta Berry presents a laboratory about measuring radiation and shielding from radioactive sources.


Hutchison, S. G.; Hutchison, F. I. (1997)' Radioactivity in Everyday Life, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 74, No. 5, pp: 501-504.

Proceed to Unit 3.7 arrow

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