On Saturday, January 25, 2014, members of the American Nuclear Society's Chicago Section organized and participated in "Atomic Fission Fun," an event for Girl Scouts to learn about nuclear science. Sixty middle school students from the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana traveled to the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Wheaton, Ill., to participate.
The daylong event included an introduction to nuclear science along with the following breakout sessions:
- Half-Life and Medical Uses of Radiation
- Radiation Uses and Dose Counting Experiment
- Nuclear Energy and Fission
- It's Your Planet-Love It!
The Girl Scouts rotated around the sessions, each one including an educational presentation and fun hands-on learning activity. The pictures below are of the fission game. The students all get balloons, blue for neutrons and red for protons. They are put into groups to act like nuclei. One student starts as the "neutron generator" and throws blue balloons at the nuclei. If the students are hit, they are instructed to break apart and throw their neutrons at other nuclei, and so on. Some students also act as "control rods" and try to steal blue balloons to control the reaction. This game teaches the students how fission and the chain reaction work in a manner that they can understand.
After the breakout sessions, the Girl Scouts stayed with their groups and played Jeopardy, with clues on topics that they learned throughout the day. It was amazing to see how much knowledge the students retained. The students even said that the final Jeopardy question was "too easy." It's a great day for nuclear science outreach when young women are expounding on what gamma rays and uranium atoms are.
The Girl Scouts walked away with the new ANS patch and knowledge on nuclear science concepts. The ANS volunteers from Argonne National Laboratory, Exelon Nuclear, and Nuclear Undone were also able to tell the students about their careers. We hope that the event made the Girl Scouts more excited about science, uses of radiation, and nuclear energy.
The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana organization is encouraging more young women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math fields and has numerous STEM programs in the Chicago area.
Lenka Kollar is the Owner & Editor of Nuclear Undone, a blog and consulting company focusing on educating the public about nuclear energy and nonproliferation issues. She is an active ANS member, serving on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Technical Group Executive Committee, Student Sections Committee, and Professional Women in ANS Committee. Connect with Lenka on LinkedIN and Twitter.