05 February 2011


When I was a teen growing up in the wilds of west Texas, one of my friends had a five-year old sister. (If you're an old-timer at this site, you may remember my story of this very same child telling me that if I wasn't good, I would go to h-a-i-l.) It was the 80's and jelly shoes were all the rage. This little girl had a pair of jellies that were a shade of neon orange that caused blindness if you looked at them too long. My friend would make fun of her little sister's "nuclear orange" footwear...but the child kept insisting, "They're not buhnookular."

I tell you this random note from my childhood as a set up to two resources I collected that have nuclear connections. This is a continuation of my spirit of sharing posts as I pass along old resources made new to me by the miracle of modern scanning.
  • I bring you the Wonders of the Chihuahuan Desert Coloring Book (29MB; pdf), courtesy of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, NM. WIPP is where alpha-irradiated waste items go for permanent storage. It's a big ole salt mine with miles of underground tunnels. I took a group of kids there once so they could participate in a job shadow program. While they were off doing their thing, I got a tour of the place. It's one of the most claustrophobic experiences I've ever had. There's no way I could be a miner. Anyway, where else are you going to get a coloring book with tarantulas and prairie dogs. No author or copyright date on the material. It's your tax dollars at work, kids.
  • But, even better, I have the Tuna Can Cloud Chamber and Radioactive Food handout (17MB; pdf). This was put together by Jay Shelton for the 1995 NSTA conference. Oh, how I love this stuff. The "tuna can cloud chamber" is just awesome. You need dry ice, empty cans spray painted black, styrofoam containers, plastic wrap, rubber bands, a chunk of something radioactive (uranium ore, old Fiestaware...), and a flashlight---and boom, your kids can watch the vapour trails left by the ejection of radioactive particles. There's a lot more to be had in the handout, including a quiz about radioactivity---great for addressing misconceptions.
These old resources might find new life in your classroom...but let's hope that buhnookular-coloured jelly shoes never do.


Jenny said...

I loved my jelly shoes! I'm not sure I had any quite that color, but all the colors were pretty insane.

This coloring book is fabulous. When we would visit my grandmother in Lubbock we always wanted to go to Prairie Dog Town. We visited it again about 10 years ago when we were there for my grandmother's funeral, and I was really disappointed. I don't know if the socio-economic status of those prairie dogs has dropped over the years or if it just looks different through an adult's eyes, but it was sad.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Cool stuff, SG!

When I was between 8th and 9th grade, my Dad, wanting to keep me out of summer mischief, enrolled me in summer school, where he taught Latin to kids wanting to get ahead of the game.

I took typing, which has benefited me since, and advanced nuclear physics...an optional accelerated class for hyper-geeky seniors who couldn't get enough during the regular school year. (Keep in mind that I was 14 going on 15 and didn't understand diddly.)

Our class project was to build a miniature cyclotron! We almost got it finished by the end of the term. Actually, I'm kinda glad we never got to test it. :D

Three years later I pulled an A+ in senior physics, but to this day, I can't make sense out of my summer school notes from advanced nuclear physics.

Like Ripley used to say, "Believe it or not!"

The Science Goddess said...

I think the entry level nuclear stuff (like what is in the handout) is a lot of fun---and a way to make a lot of the unseen mystery of atoms a bit more real. Wish I'd done more of this in my classes.