Nuclear Fusion: The Power of the Sun – Discovery Education streaming

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Nuclear Fusion: The Power of the Sun
Lesson Plan
Grade Level: 9-12     Curriculum Focus: Energy;Forces;Motion        Lesson Duration: Two class periods

Student Objectives:
      Differentiate between the three different types of nuclear reactions: fusion, fission, and
      radioactive decay.
      Examine how the sun's energy is produced during nuclear fusion.

Materials
      Discovery School video on unitedstreaming: Savage Sun
      Search for this video by using the video title (or a portion of it) as the keyword.

      Selected clips that support this lesson plan:
          Nuclear Fusion: The Energy of the Sun
          The Star Factory: Harnessing Nuclear Fusion to Create a Star on Earth
          Neutrinos: Studying the Sun's Core


      Research materials on nuclear reactions
      Computer with Internet access
      Materials to create three-dimensional models of nuclear reactions

Procedures
   1. Review with your students what they know about the three types of nuclear reactions--fusion,
      fission, and radioactive decay. They should understand the following:
          Most of the sun's energy is produced during nuclear fusion, in which the union of atomic
          nuclei from two lighter atoms (hydrogen) unites to form a new heavier atom with smaller
          mass (helium). The "extra" mass is converted into energy.
          Fusion reactions should be distinguished from fission reactions, which produce energy in
          most nuclear power plants.
          Radioactive decay is a third type of nuclear reaction, which involves atoms that undergo
          radioactive (alpha, beta, and gamma) decay.
Nuclear Fusion: The Power of the Sun                                                                       2
Lesson Plan

   2. Have students use the Internet or other sources to investigate the reactions that occur in fusion,
      fission, and radioactive decay reactions. One place to start is the Web site, ABC's of Nuclear
      Science: http://www.lbl.gov/abc/.
   3. Have your students use these and other resources to complete a three-part Venn diagram
      comparing and contrasting fusion, fission, and radioactive decay.
   4. Divide your class into groups, assigning each group one of the three reactions to investigate
      more thoroughly.
   5. Each group should prepare a presentation that includes a three-dimensional model illustrating
      how its assigned reaction works.
   6. Each presentation should also include an explanation of each reactant and product and the way
      in which energy is released.
   7. Once students have given their presentations, end by asking the class to compare and contrast
      their models.

Discussion Questions
   1. What would happen if the amount of light reaching the Earth from the sun were cut in half?
      Predict what the climate and life would be like here on Earth. How would humans respond to
      this change?
   2. Most of the sun's energy is produced from fusion reactions, while nuclear power plants use
      fission reactions to produce their energy. Compare and contrast nuclear fission and nuclear
      fusion. Name at least three ways they are similar and three ways they are different.
   3. The scientific community has spent billions of dollars to create an underground facility for
      collecting data on the neutrinos that rain down on Earth from the sun. Are the potential benefits
      of understanding neutrinos worth such a large expense? Why or why not?

Assessment
   Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
           3 points: Student's diagram effectively compares and contrasts the three types of nuclear
           reactions; model clearly and accurately illustrates how group's assigned reaction works;
           presentation clear, well organized, and reflects excellent speaking skills.
           2 points: Student's diagram adequately compares and contrasts the three types of nuclear
           reactions; model lacks clarity; presentation clear but speaking skills lacking.
           1 point: Student's diagram inadequate; model lacks clarity; presentation clear but poorly
           organized; speaking skills lacking.




            Published by Discovery Education.  2005. All rights reserved.
Nuclear Fusion: The Power of the Sun                                                                    3
Lesson Plan


Vocabulary
       aurora
       Definition: A luminous phenomenon that consists of streamers or arches of light appearing in
       the upper atmosphere of a planet's magnetic polar regions and is caused by the emission of
       light from atoms excited by electrons accelerated along the planet's magnetic field lines.
       Context: The aurora borealis forms a spectacular ribbon of light in the sky.

       electromagnetic
       Definition: Of, relating to, or produced by magnetism developed by a current of electricity.
       Context: You can lose AM radio signals on your car radio when they are interrupted by the
       strong electromagnetic field that is produced around high-voltage power lines.

       fusion
       Definition: The union of atomic nuclei to form heavier nuclei resulting in the release of
       enormous quantities of energy when certain light elements unite.
       Context: In the sun, helium is produced by the fusion of hydrogen atoms.

       nebula
       Definition: Any of numerous clouds of gas or dust in interstellar space.
       Context: On a clear night, the Orion Nebula is visible even with the naked eye.

       neutrino
       Definition: An uncharged elementary particle that is believed to be massless or to have a very
       small mass, that has any of three forms, and that interacts only rarely with other particles.
       Context: Even though we cannot see or feel them, trillions of neutrinos hit the Earth every
       second.

       plasma
       Definition: A collection of charged particles containing about equal numbers of positive ions and
       electrons and exhibiting some properties of a gas but differing from a gas in being a good
       conductor of electricity and in being affected by a magnetic field.
       Context: Millions of tons of electrically charged plasma may be thrown out into space after a
       solar disturbance.

       prominence
       Definition: A mass of gas resembling a cloud that arises from the chromospheres of the sun.
       Context: A large, looping prominence on the surface of the sun can be detected here on Earth
       about eight minutes after it occurs.




            Published by Discovery Education.  2005. All rights reserved.
Nuclear Fusion: The Power of the Sun                                                                  4
Lesson Plan



        radiation
        Definition: The process of emitting radiant energy in the form of waves or particles.
        Context: Exposure to ultraviolet radiation has been linked to skin cancer in humans.


Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education
addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit
http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp.

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
             Science--Nature of Science: Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
             Science--Physical Science: Understands the sources and properties of energy.
             Science--Physical Science: Understands forces and motion.
             Science--Nature of Science: Understands the nature of scientific knowledge.
National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences provides guidelines for teaching science in grades K-12 to promote
scientific literacy. To view the standards, visit this Web site:
http://books.nap.edu/html/nses/html/overview.html#content.

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
             Physical Science: Transfer of energy




Support Materials
Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools
offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a
Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit
             http://school.discovery.com/teachingtools/teachingtools.html




              Published by Discovery Education.  2005. All rights reserved.
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