NEW Middle School Nuclear Science Program

By Jessica Donaldson, Technology Teacher, Cane Bay Middle School, Berkeley County School District, SC


Did you know that South Carolina has four nuclear power plants that supplied roughly 58% of the state’s electricity in 2017? I live and teach in South Carolina, and while I knew we had several nuclear power plants, I did not realize how much nuclear power was being generated in my own state. Let’s face it, when educators talk about alternative energy, many of us have a tendency to skirt over nuclear power. In fact, many of us aren’t very knowledgeable about nuclear science in general.

That’s all about to change thanks to Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World, an invaluable resource made possible by a partnership between the American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information and Discovery Education. Navigating Nuclear helps to debunk myths and clarify common misconceptions about nuclear science, while exploring its role in future technology.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I am ready to dive into a new topic with students, I end up spending days researching information. I browse lots of different websites and read numerous articles to put a lesson or unit plan together, and I like to search for video clips to use as visuals for my students. For my upcoming lesson on nuclear science, though, I had one single stop.

Digital Lesson Plan: Nuclear Energy

The Nuclear Energy lesson guide from Navigating Nuclear is incredibly comprehensive and comes with a completed PowerPoint that I can use as is in my classroom, or upload to Google Slides to use with Pear Deck. The guide is not only chock full of background information and question prompts for students, but it takes me through each slide, listing links that can be used to dive even deeper into the information provided.


Also included in the digital lesson plan are student sheets to guide whole group discussion or independent student exploration. I can print sheets for student use, or share in my Google Classroom to use with Kami for Chrome on a touchscreen device. There is also a video link to YouTube showing a two billion year old nuclear reactor. Seriously. In the past, I would have needed to set aside time during my planning to research information, find links and videos, then create student sheets. Instead, I have all of the information I need (and more!) right at my fingertips.

Navigating Nuclear includes a page dedicated to Career Profiles for nuclear-related fields, which is critical in helping my students see real-world connections. Each Career Profile includes a general description that is followed by a question and answer page. These short reads not only provide insight into each job, but provide a peek into the person behind the job, which is important if I want my middle school students to be able to relate in some way.

In addition to all of these great classroom resources for teaching and learning, Discovery Education has scheduled a free Navigating Nuclear Virtual Field Trip. On October 15, 2018 (and beyond, as it will be available on-demand immediately following), students and teachers can visit the Palo Verde Generating Station and get an exclusive look at one of the most unique power plants in the world. By submitting a question on the website or via Twitter (#NavigatingNuclearVFT), you could have your question answered during the VFT!

If you were to ask my middle school students right now what they think of when they hear the words “nuclear science,” you will most likely not get many details on nuclear power. Thanks to the Digital Lesson Plans and STEM Project Starters available in Navigating Nuclear, I can take my students much further into the exploration of nuclear science. Interested in teaching your students how measuring radiation is used in detecting smoke in their homes? Are they curious about how a pill that uses radiation helps doctors diagnose and treat diseases? Through Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World, we are taking steps to help our students see nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.


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