The most radioactivity – an Inquiry Learning Scenario (ILS)
This activity has the main objective of developing skills related to learning by investigation. Some of these skills are hypothesis elaboration and data analysis obtained from experiments carried out using a remote laboratory. In this Inquiry Learning Scenario, students need to think about how the variables time, distance and absorbers influence the measures of radiation. To carry out this activity the students used GoLab platform (www.golabz.eu). All the learning scenario is organized in an ILS (O mais radioativo – The most radioactivity) in GoLab platform (https://graasp.eu/s/52sb4q).
Inquiry-based learning: an approach to develop problem-solving skills
Inquiry-based learning is an educational strategy in which students follow methods and practices similar to those of professional scientists. It is a process based on an approach to solving problems. It involves the application of several problem-solving skills like formulating hypotheses and testing them by conducting experiments and/or making observations.
Inquiry-based learning aspires to engage students in an authentic scientific discovery process. From a pedagogical perspective, the complex scientific process is divided into smaller units that guide students for scientific thinking. These individual units are called inquiry phases, and their set of connections forms an inquiry cycle.
Inquiry-cycle phases: an approach to scientific method
This inquiry cycle includes five general inquiry phases: Orientation, Conceptualization, Investigation, Conclusion and Discussion. In the first two phases of the cycle, the opportunity is given to the students to gather information on a research question and build hypotheses they want to investigate. In this project, students obtained information about the three types of radioactivity and build hypotheses about how the variables time, distance and absorbers influence the amount of radiation.
Remote Labs in STEM
The actual interaction with the online lab happened in the third phase, the Investigation. In this phase, the students accessed a remote lab – The Radioactivity Lab – in University of Queensland in Australia via GoLab platform (https://www.golabz.eu/lab/radioactivity-lab). This lab examined the intensity of radiation over distance, time and interposition of different types of absorbers like paper sheet, aluminum sheet and lead sheet.
Students investigate the intensity of radiation being emitted from a radioactive Strontium-90/Americium-241/Cobolt-60 source, by setting distances, time and absorbers at which a Geiger counter measures radiation. They received the data in a graphic form and filed a form (Google Forms) with the data obtained in the experiments. After that, they analyzed data in a Google plan using filters to select the specific desired data. At this moment, we introduced digital tools to the students – a very useful skill to develope at the school.
The most radioactivity material
During the last two phases of the inquiry learning process (Conclusion and Discussion), the students learn how to write scientific explanations linking their hypotheses with the evidence collected during the investigation phase. Therefore, they are reflecting on their learning processes and outcomes, comparing and discussing them with other students. In this phase they analysed their data and think about some questions like: “What is the most radioactive material?“ “Do distance and time influence the amount of radioactivity?” Can the absorbers stop the radiation?” “Would you feel safe in carrying any of these radioactive materials in your backpack?“
These are some of the questions that the students discussed on a chat app and made their conclusions after all the inquiry-cycle.
Facts related to the activity
This activity took place at Colégio Antares, Americana, São Paulo, Brazil and about 75 students from the 9th grade participated. We worked with this ILS since March 9 and finished at April 29. The teachers that are responsible for the development of the activity are Eloize Luvesuto and Juliano Almeida, both Science teachers.