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Science Support Area

Welcome Message for Teachers

Welcome to the Health Physics Society (HPS) Teachers web page, where you can request a speaker or information about radiation or a radiation safety topic to help you in the classroom, learn more about radiation and radiation safety topics, and find lesson plans and classroom activities about radiation science.

We have organized and categorized the resources available to you in the following expandable table of contents. Links in the table of contents will take you to a brief description of the resource and will link you directly to the resource.

Please continue to check back as we expand this site with additional materials.

Toolbox for Teachers

Internet Resources to Assist Teachers in Learning and Teaching Radiation Science

Note that the Internet links included here are restricted in terms of the intended applications. There exist numerous Internet sites that are quite comprehensive, with links to a wide variety of additional information of possible interest to health physicists. If you don't find what you're looking for on this site or if you have additional sites to suggest, please contact us.

Table of Contents

Basic information and references
  Ask the Experts
  HPS Fact Sheets
  Radiation Terms and Definitions
  Basic References
Resources for your classroom
  Career Information
  Radiation Science Instrumentation and Radiation Sources
  Safety of Radiation Sources in the Classroom
  Demonstrations and Classroom Activities
+  Lesson Plans and Other Curriculum Materials
Contact the HPS Science Support Committee

Basic information and a few of our favorite references to help you and your students understand radiation science

Ask the Experts [toc]

  1. Browse thousands of questions and answers. People across the world have asked thousands of radiation-related questions.  Search the questions to see how experts in the field have answered them.
  2. Ask your question. If you can't find your question already answered, submit it and an expert in the field will provide you with a science-based, factual answer you can feel confident in accepting. [toc] is a website that contains simple, factual, easy-to-understand information about radiation, radiation sources, radiation exposure, and radiation myths.

HPS Fact Sheets [toc]

HPS Fact Sheets are peer-reviewed scientific short papers (just a few pages) that explain radiation-related topics of current interest in easy-to-understand language. Each fact sheet includes references to support the information included.

Radiation Terms and Definitions [toc]

A lengthy list of radiation-related terms with brief, simple definitions.

Basic Reference Materials [toc]

  1. Understanding Radiation in Our World. This publication from the U.S. National Safety Council provides a very good introduction to radiation science concepts, uses of radiation, and the societal issues inherent to the use of radioactive material.
  2. Understanding Radiation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a website that provides very good information about radiation and radioactivity. Information about health effects and radiation protection standards are also included on this site.
  3. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains a site for teachers and students that contains a lot of good basic information on radiation and radiation safety.
  4. The International Atomic Energy Agency offers a series of FAQs and fact sheets about a number of radiation-related topics.

Resources for your classroom

Career Information [toc]

Learn about careers in radiation safety—protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation while helping all of us benefit from the useful application of radiation science.

Radiation Science Instrumentation and Radiation Sources [toc]

  1. HPS Radiation Instrument Kit is a collection of equipment and materials for basic radiation science demonstrations and laboratory exercises that is loaned to teachers. This form must be opened up in Adobe Reader in order to fill in the form using your keyboard.

  2. Vernier Software & Technology. This company produces simple-to-use and inexpensive computer-based equipment for basic nuclear science experimentation. A laboratory manual is available providing teachers with ready-to-use instructions.
  3. Spectrum Techniques provides inexpensive radiation sources for use in the classroom. Refer to the listing for exempt sources.
  4. Oak Ridge Associated Universities provides a listing of the operating and maintenance manuals for a wide variety of civil defense radiation survey meters.
  5. Instructions for modifying a surplus civil-defense Geiger-Mueller counter allows the analog survey meter to be converted to a digital counter with audio output.

Safety of Radiation Sources in the Classroom [toc]

This document provides guidance on using radiation sources safely in elementary and secondary classrooms.

Demonstrations and Classroom Activities [toc]

  1. Irradiated salt demonstration. Did you receive a sample of gamma-irradiated salt from a member of the Health Physics Society?  Read the full instructions for using the salt to demonstrate thermoluminescence.
  2. Calculate your annual radiation exposure activity. Use this calculator from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to estimate the amount of radiation you're exposed to during a year.
  3. Calculate your annual radiation exposure activity. Use this calculator from the American Nuclear Society to estimate the amount of radiation you're exposed to during a year.
  4. Radioactive decay simulation using candy. This radioactive decay activity from the American Association for the Advancement of Science uses candy as a surrogate for radioactive material.
  5. Radioactive decay simulation using coins. This activity leads students through an activity using pennies to explore the concept of radioactive decay.
  6. Half-Life: A Classroom Exercise. This activity includes a lot of background about the theory of radioactive decay and was developed by a university professor and radiation safety professional.

Lesson Plans and Other Curriculum Materials [toc]

This section includes a series of lesson plans and other classroom materials developed by U.S. government agencies, nuclear science organizations, university professors, and other professionals.

Lesson Plans Created by the Health Physics Society [toc]

  1. Elementary Class Introduction to Radiation contains suggestions for introducing the concepts of ionizing radiation to elementary class students using visible light as an analog. Useful talking points and demonstrations in the form of a script are provided.
  2. Introduction to Radiation and Radiation Detection: Background Radiation is a detailed exploration of using a radiation detector to identify naturally radioactive materials. Comprehensive notes for the teacher are included so that suitable radiation-emitting samples can be obtained.
  3. Investigating Properties of Radiation is a simple inquiry-guided experiment that helps students determine what materials can be used to absorb different types of radiation. The experiment requires different types of radiation sources, different types of shielding materials, and a radiation detector sensitive to alpha, beta, and gamma radiation.
  4. The Radiobiology Lesson Plan reviews cell structure, demonstrates the low probability of interaction of radiation with matter, and explains the factors contributing to cell sensitivity. For older students, teachers can describe mechanisms of cell injury.

Radiation and Radioactivity Lesson Plans [toc]

  1. Learn about radiation and radioactivity using this lesson plan from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  2. Learn about Nuclear Chemistry in our World by using this curriculum from the American Chemical Society.

Uses of Radiation Lesson Plans [toc]

  1. RadTown USA is an interactive virtual city that allows students to explore the myriad of ways radiation and radioactive material are used in modern society. This site is maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission offers a lesson plan on the uses of radiation.
  3. The American Nuclear Society offers a printable poster on the uses of radiation for detecting land mines.
  4. The American Nuclear Society offers a printable poster on the uses of radiation for space exploration.

Nuclear Reactors and Nuclear Energy Lesson Plans [toc]

  1. Learn about nuclear reactors and nuclear energy using this lesson plan from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  2. The Harnessed Atom, student version and teacher guide offers a dated, but still useful, curriculum about energy generation and nuclear power for upper elementary and middle school students.
  3. The American Nuclear Society offers a printable poster on nuclear fission and fusion.
  4. General Atomics offers a comprehensive site on nuclear fusion.

Nuclear Waste and Transportation of Radioactive Material Curriculum Materials [toc]

  1. Learn about radioactive waste using this lesson plan from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  2. The American Nuclear Society offers a printable poster on nuclear waste transportation and disposal.
  3. Learn about transporting radioactive materials using this lesson plan from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Contact the HPS Science Support Committee [toc]

The Health Physics Society offers two awards annually: The Geoffrey G. Eichholz Outstanding Science Teacher Award and the Student Science Award. The Science Teacher Awards allows us to honor teachers (K-12) that have made significant contributions to educating students in topics related to radiation safety. The Student Science Awards recognizes the contributions of those students in grades 6-12 to the understanding of the application of radiation and its impact on the environment and health. Both awards have monetary compensation. As teachers and educators you are in the best position to help us identify individuals deserving of these awards. Contact either the chair of the Science Support Committee or the chair of the HPS Awards Committee for additional details.

If the resources provided here haven't answered your questions, or if you would like to talk to a local radiation safety professional about visiting your classroom, please contact us and we'll try to address your needs.

Compiled by the Health Physics Society Science Support Committee, a group of radiation safety professionals committed to supporting and improving radiation science education. Comments on this resource for teachers can be sent to Web Editor in Chief, Howard Dickson,