Myself and a colleague went together on a full day Radiation Protection Supervisor Training course at the Science Learning Centre in London, run by a chap from CLEAPSS. Information can be found here; they are run throughout England / Wales and provide some vital information. Did you know that as well as having a Science Advisor from your local authority you also have a Radiation Protection Officer (RPO) and a Radiation Protection Advisor (RPA)? These are employed by the LA to communicate with their schools regarding their procedures for using radioactive substances, as well as to perform inspections.
I was initially quite apprehensive about how much I would enjoy the course…the first line of the description was that the day will cover “Legislation and DfES guidance”, amongst other exciting points regarding storage, monitoring and keeping of radioactive materials. However, the presenter from CLEAPSS managed to keep my attention for the entire day without using any interactive activities; simply talking at us! There was plenty to learn about the role of Radiation Protection Supervisor, the responsibilities of the RPS and so on, but there were also a great number of teaching and learning ideas and activities discussed. More information from the Health and Safety Executive about who to appoint as an RPS can be found here, and the most important document for an RPS, or anyone handling radioactive substances, from CLEAPSS is L93. There is a host of information, including great risk assessments that can be used, but also important information about annual checks that you are supposed to carry out on radioactive sources as a school.
I’ve included an overview of activities relevant to my school, as well as information about the RPS, in this file. Some of the points are related to the AQA Science and Additional Science spec and are generally very vague so if you want to speak to me about any of it further then please get in touch. One of my favourites for the T&L activities is the detecting radon gas using balloons, very very easy to set up and great results!
After this we had a little scour around our older, less well-used equipment, and found a couple of spark counters (perfect for observing alpha – visually great for the students) and some bubble/cloud chambers. A key resource that was continually referred to was the Institute of Physics’ Teaching Radioactivity website. Included on the site is a range of resources for radioactivity, as well as practical experiments, animations and videos. Including – if you’re going to use cloud chambers – this very helpful video on making dry ice. I could go on for a long time discussing my favourite ideas from that website, but I’ll let you make your own decisions as to which parts are most useful in your school. I’ve also been inspired to involve some sort of radioactivity investigation into our A2 course – why not? It’s legal, it’s safe, and for the student(s) involved it’s going to be pretty exciting and interesting for them to get involved in.
I hope some of this can inspire your teaching of radioactivity. Oh, and help with the boring – but important – safety bits too!