Saturday, March 12, 2011

Curriculum Resource: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Dangers in Japan

It is a scary thing for all of us to be hearing about the recent disaster in Japan.  However, I think that information always helps.  So here are some resources you can use in helping your early adolescents understand what is going on with the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear dangers in Japan.

The US Geological Survey maintains a website called "Earthquakes for Kids" that has a lot of good resources for learning about the initial problem, which was the earthquake.  They have an entire page of animations to help students visualize the technical terms used to explain the quake.

PBS Online has a great page on tsunamis as part of its Savage Earth series (which also includes information on earthquakes).  The page includes a good animation on the cause and effects of tsunamis.  The whole site is good if you decide to make this into a larger lesson on geology.

The current problem now, however, is that the disruption of power to the area is endangering the ability of five power plants to keep their nuclear fuel rods cooled down enough to avoid a partial meltdown, like what happened in the US at Three Mile Island in 1979.

Here is an animation that can help students visualize the problem.  It is supposed to be a game to figure out how to stop the rods from overheating and melting down, but I haven't figured out how to do that.  But it does demonstrate how a disruption elsewhere in the plant can cause big problems for the fuel rods.

The Southern Power company has an interactive animation of an entire nuclear power plant.  This allows students to click on different parts of the process and understand how nuclear fuel is converted into electrical energy--and the safety components that are needed along the way.

NeoK12 has developed a series of short videos that explain nuclear power and nuclear power plants.

So that's a start, at least, on some materials you can use to help explain what is going on to your kids.  But if anyone else has some good resources to add to the list, please put them in the comments below.

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