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Science Teachers Workshops on Radioactivity

A Brief History of the Workshops

The Radiation Protection Programs in the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) supported a Board that was tasked with finding a site for a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility. This task ended in 1998 and the Board has been dissolved by Governor McGreevey's signing of bill S1688 on December 2, 2002.

In the mid-1990's, the NJDEP and the Board discussed the possibility of hosting a facility with many municipality representatives and members of the public. It was apparent that the general public knew very little of the properties of radioactive materials. The greatest influence on their knowledge appeared to come from the emotional reactions to atomic bomb deployment and testing, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The benefits of nuclear power generation, nuclear medicine disagnostics and therapy, and the use of radioactive materials used in the manufacture of many everyday products never appeared to be considered.

After 1998 the NJDEP and the Board started an educational initiative to educate the public on basic concepts of the use of radioactive materials, by providing training for middle school and junior high school teachers. Our first science teacher workshop was held in July 2000 at the Grover Middle School in West Windsor, NJ. In 2001 we held summer workshops at Bordentown High School and Montclair State University. In 2002, workshops were held in the Reynolds Middle School in Hamilton, NJ and also Montclair State University. In 2003, workshops were held in Bridgewater -Raritan High School and the Carl Sandberg School in Matawan, NJ. Each three days of classroom work was followed by a ½ day educational tour of a facility that uses radioactive materilas in research. We have visited Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyeth Ayerst, Hoffman La-Roche, Merck, Inc., Princeton University, Aventis US, and Rutgers University.

Middle school and high school teachers, hired by the NJDEP, present the material that staff of the NJDEP has helped them learn. There are guest presentations on radiology, nuclear power generation and radon. Participating teachers digest the material and discuss how they would develop lesson plans on some of this material for their students. Each participant receives generous handouts and references, a certificate, approximately 21 professional development hours, and a $350 stipend.

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