ANS works to promote K-12 nuclear education program in North Carolina

June 28, 2023, 12:04PMNuclear News
The PULSTAR reactor at North Carolina State University. (Photo: N.C. State)

The American Nuclear Society is collaborating with the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership (KFP) at North Carolina State University to introduce a nuclear science curriculum to Kenan Fellows and the K-12 students they teach.

The KFP invests in teachers to serve as bridges between schools and industries through industry-based professional development for educators. These educators get exposure to industries in North Carolina and become familiar with their needs for an informed and prepared workforce.

Energy demand: The nuclear industry in North Carolina is poised to grow in a way that will provide additional baseload energy to meet growth in demand and to meet North Carolina’s decarbonization goals for 2050. Growth will likely come in the form of small modular reactors later this decade. Each plant needs administrators of various backgrounds as well as chemists, engineers, financial personnel, inventory management, maintenance techs, procurement personnel, operators, and engineers.


Navigating Nuclear: ANS seeks to provide educators with science-based information, in this case the Navigating Nuclear curriculum, so that students around the world can be better informed about nuclear science. ANS past president Eric Loewen (2011–2012), one of the driving forces behind Navigating Nuclear, noted, “In my ANS career, working with Discovery Education, producing materials for students, and then seeing the light of understanding in young minds, has been my most rewarding effort.” He added, “It is in this spirit of seeking to provide educators with a proven nuclear-science–based curriculum, ANS is very pleased to be collaborating with the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership during the North Carolina 2023–2024 K-12 academic year.”

Janice Lindegard, ANS program specialist, stressed the need for ANS members' participation in such programs. “ANS is creating programs that inform and inspire today's youth as well as helping teachers with engaging resources,” she said. “We encourage members to take advantage of these resources and contact us to get nuclear education programs started in their areas for K-12 students.”

PULSTAR tour: N.C. State’s nuclear engineering program is a supporter of the KFP/ANS collaboration. Current and past Kenan Fellows will have the option to tour the university’s 1-MW light water education research reactor, the PULSTAR. The nuclear engineering department has operated the PULSTAR reactor safely and with great benefit to students, researchers, and the public for over 50 years. A tour includes visiting the main control room, viewing sample fuel rods, seeing dosimetry in action, and looking down into the open-top reactor core.

About the Fellows: There are about 540 past and present Kenan Fellows, and each one has participated in a three-week STEM industry summer immersion program and 80 hours of professional development. In a typical year, there are 30–40 new Kenan Fellows. The reach of Kenan Fellows alumni is an estimated 25,000 students in about 80 counties.

“My exposure to the Kenan Fellows program reminds me of a lived experience from my life”, said N.C. State alumnus and ANS member Steve Rea. “Back in the day, I went through Goldsboro High School’s science track. Dr. Joe Mitchener was the chemistry teacher. There was a group of science nerds that attended his Chemistry I class. That class was so enlightening and well received by those students that they called for a Chemistry II class to be taught. Dr. Mitchener agreed to putting the extra work in to create a Chemistry II class. There were eight students in the Chemistry II class. All eight went on to engineering schools. Seven of those eight enrolled in the N.C. State College of Engineering. That is the kind of impact I believe STEM-inspired Kenan Fellows can have on young learners.”

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