The advantages and disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: The Chernobyl disaster-Never again!

Author: Stella Magid-Podolsky, STEM teacher and educator in Israel

The activity took place between 20 February – 26 April 2020

The activity that I want to describe in this blog is called: “The advantages and disadvantages of Nuclear Energy:  The Chernobyl disaster-Never again!”. This is a long term activity which took place from the end of February till the 26th of April (the date when the Chernobyl disaster had occurred 34 years ago).

I did this activity with my 8th grade students during STEM lessons when my students began to learn the topic of alternative sources of Energy. The activity was divided into two parts. The first part of the activity took place at the school (that was before the Covid-19 outbreak). The second part of the activity began during the quarantine period, so it was held in the form of digital remote learning.

During the first part of the activity, 29 students were divided into 7 groups. Each group got an assignment to pick one alternative source for Electrical energy, conduct an inquiry about their chosen source and present their outcomes to their peers in the class. Most of the students picked Nuclear Energy and when I noticed that this topic interested many students and that many of them watched the HBO television miniseries “Chernobyl”, I decided to continue with the activity, focusing on the Chernobyl disaster.

I believe in the theory that if the teacher is interested in a specific topic, he or she will be more motivated to teach this topic in an interesting way and the process will also increase students’ interest and motivation for this topic.

Continue reading The advantages and disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: The Chernobyl disaster-Never again!

Tree Huggers vs Oil Cowboys Debate at St.Paul’s Missionary College, Malta

What if a referendum had to take place in Malta about whether we should keep using fossil fossils as our main source of obtaining electrical energy or whether we should switch completely to renewables? Our society (class) is made up of 24 students who are divided into 5 groups. 2 lobby groups composed of 6 members each represent each side of the referendum’s options. The Oil Cowboy group represents the current local system making use of fossil fuels. The Tree Huggers group campaigns in favour of switching to renewable options. Joining our debate are 3 civilian groups with 4 students each. The members of society are our voters. One group of civilians known as “Electric-Malta employees” represents a group of people who are currently employed in the power stations and thus fear loss of their job due to the change. Another group is known as the “skeptics” who are skeptical of both parties, as they have found flaws with both proposals. The final group is called the “health and finance inspectors” that evaluates the changes in terms of health and finance. All groups are provided with age-appropriate literature, while being equipped with the knowledge covered throughout the topic part of Maltese syllabus related to climate change to help them build their arguments. Civilian groups draft questions for both lobby groups. Lobby groups are prepared to defend their point of view, as well as to provide reasonable arguments against the opposing group. The 80 minutes long debate is (in my opinion) very successful in terms of getting the boys to engage in a scientific debate having relevance to every day life.

Introductory speech by Tree Hugger team leader
Introductory speech by Oil Cowboy team leader
Health and Finance inspector raising some questions
As the debate gets heated!
A funny moment!

The primary reason for hosting the debate is to encourage students to experience science in potential real-life situation. Members of the general public nowadays have their say about several issues where society and science converge, such as abortion or the use of GMC. Thus, I think it is important for our students to experience an example of a situation within the context of their daily life that requires the application of scientific knowledge. Students are also encouraged to make use of the critical and creative thinking skills while promoting collaborative learning. Students are also going to practice their presentation and entrepreneurial skills. All the skills mentioned are 21st century skills, which are of ever-growing importance and should be developed in parallel with content learning.