Demystifying Radiation

byVanessa Vitug

Radiation is a word synonymous in people’s minds with images of a mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, rubble over Chernobyl, and floods at Fukushima. This unit attempts to show that radiation is as unavoidable as the sun, and provides benefits beyond generating electrical power. High school Anatomy and Physiology as well Biology and Health Science students will develop a foundational knowledge regarding the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), chemical bonds in DNA damaged by ultraviolet radiation, and how radiation is measured. As the unit develops, students will understand that a nuclear reactor producing nuclear energy is not the only use of high energy radioactive materials. Through hands-on-learning activities and a mock Environmental Protection Agency committee hearing, students will connect today’s medical technology including X-rays, CT scans, and radiotherapy to the EMS and radioactive particles. Finally, students will articulate that the hazards of radiation exposure are outweighed by the benefits radioactive materials provide to society.

Keywords: radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, bond energy, ultraviolet, nuclear energy, X-rays, radiotherapy

(Developed for Physiology, grades 11-12; recommended for Biology and Health Science, grades 9-12)

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