Submitted by Steven Buck, Exelon Generation
On Friday, September 30, 2016, LaSalle Station North American Young Generation in Nuclear and Women in Nuclear members hosted 19 area educators for Nuclear 101. The event brings teachers in STEM subjects to a nuclear power facility to provide them an understanding of nuclear science and power generation. Participating schools included Minooka Community High, LaSalle-Peru Township High, Hampshire Middle, Central Intermediate in Ottawa, Seneca Grade School, and Northlawn Junior High in Streator.
The teachers started the day with a presentation covering the fundamentals of nuclear power plants, fission, radiation, and applications of nuclear science in everyday life. Participation in several activities helped reinforce concepts from the presentation and demonstrate how teachers can similarly engage their students. M&Ms were used to simulate radioactive decay and practice data collection, analysis, and graphing skills. Another activity involved teams racing to move “radioactive” ping-pong balls from one bag to another using a limited number of craft supplies, teaching concepts of contamination and waste handling while stressing the importance of safety and teamwork.
Displays for everyday sources of radiation and innovative technology used in nuclear were available during lunch. The afternoon consisted of a presentation in the LaSalle simulator and a tour inside the power plant. LaSalle NAYGN and WIN members also participated in a Q&A session with the group to address misconceptions about nuclear power and provide additional guidance on incorporating nuclear science in the curriculum. One visiting educator commented, “This was so interesting and informative! There were so many people available to answer any questions that we had. I really appreciated how you were very open and straightforward about safety and regulations.”
The teachers were sent off with bags containing mementos of their visit and flash drives containing a wealth of materials and resources that can be used in their classrooms. “This event makes such a positive impact on our communities,” remarked Steven Buck, co-site director for NAYGN. “We will see the fruits of our labor years from now when the students of these educators are inspired to pursue careers in the nuclear industry. Our employees represented our station with pride and we appreciate the teachers taking time to visit us.”