The attraction to nuclear physics begins for many young people—elementary, middle- and high-school students—with curiosity about our solar system and stars. Then they learn of the drama of the heavens, the continual churn of activity taking place in the vastness of the universe that produces quarks, black holes, supernovae—mysteries of great fascination.
At NSCL, we love to guide young minds on this journey, showing them how we can apply what we learn from the heavens to answer some of the fundamental questions we face on earth.
We see our involvement with K–12 teachers and students as our golden opportunity to spread understanding of our work and science and to recruit the scientists who will follow in our footsteps.
Working with a number of partners—MSU, the State of Michigan, the National Science Foundation, and others—we have contributed to the development of a number of engagement and discovery programs for K–12 teachers and students. Many of these programs are conducted at our facility and all include participation from our faculty. We also conduct tours of our laboratory for students of all ages and provide guest speakers to classes on request.
Further, laboratories provide unique opportunities to develop innovative teaching tools. Here at NSCL, we have spent years fine-tuning methods to explain the inner workings of a nucleus. Listed below are links to classroom activities - free to download - that can be used in any educational setting.
And for an excellent primer on nuclear physics and how students can benefit from the topic, read this excellent article from the magazine The Physics Teacher.
Audience: High school science classes
What: For those classes of physics students who want to go beyond the tour, here's a chance to delve into the problem of cosmic rays with a hands-on experiment. After being treated to a discussion of the state of cosmic ray research, students will form their own hypotheses on the nature of cosmic rays and test them with directional detectors. This program includes materials for the teacher to use in class before and after visiting NSCL, turning it into a three-day lesson.
Students from Redford Union HS, April 17, 2008
Audience: Middle/high school science students
Where: your classroom
How long: 60-90 minutes
What: This hands-on lesson plan is intended to give teachers the option to teach nuclear astrophysics to students in grades 7-12. The JINA/NSCL project centers around nuclear models constructed from magnets. Downloadable materials help the teacher guide students to investigate nuclear properties, unstable isotopes, decay modes, nuclear reactions, and more. The lessons can be taught with simply a supply of magnetic marbles, and there are related pieces of equipment that can also be used to demonstrate further concepts. Teachers can purchase marble sets below cost by emailing NSCL Outreach. These lessons can also be used in conjunction with a field trip to NSCL.
Students from Ovid-Elsie Schools, February 2, 2008