寄付・募金・ボランティアのセーブ・ザ・チルドレン・ジャパン

Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami Emergency response and recovery program

Radioactivity Literacy: Activity Report 2 – Workshop in a middle school in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture (1) (January 15, 2014)

Save the Children Japan (SCJ) is running a project called “Radioactivity Literacy.” The aim of this project is to help children acquire abilities to learn about radioactivity, read and understand information, and make judgments on their own. This is because there has been a flood of information relating to “radioactivity” since the earthquake/nuclear power plant accident so it has become necessary to acquire the ability to decipher which information is correct.

 

The main activities of this project are the creation of educational materials for children that deal with radioactivity and related issues, and the organization of a workshop using these materials. In October 2013, we began creating educational materials together with Citizen’s Science Initiative Japan – an NPO that is our partner organization in this project. On November 26, we held a workshop (in Japanese) for the first time using these test materials in a middle school in Fukushima City. A workshop was then held in a middle school in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture on December 17. This article gives an introduction to this workshop.

 

A total of 25 first grade middle school students from Iwaki City participated in this workshop. Following on from last time, the facilitator of the workshop was Mr. Masafumi Ueda from Citizen’s Science Initiative Japan. A total of three workshops are scheduled to be held in this middle school. The purpose of this first workshop was for the children to share their doubts and fears about radioactivity, organize the information they would like to know more about, and then learn about the basic knowledge relating to this information.

放射能リテラシー2-1

In the same way as when the workshop was held in a middle school in Fukushima City, we asked students to write on blank cards about their actual experiences relating to radioactivity, what more they would like to know, as well as their doubts and fears. At first, the students appeared to be struggling to come up with what to write down and seemed lost as to whether it was okay to write down the things they were thinking. However, looking at a presentation on what their friends had written down on the cards, they started to gradually come up with various ideas. In the end, the students produced a great many opinions, enough to fill up three large sheets of paper that had been put up on the blackboard.

放射能リテラシー2-2

What ideas did the students come up with? On the “what we had experienced and seen/heard” cards, the children wrote about their own experiences, such as “I cannot and have not been able to play outside” and “I performed a radiation test,” as well as the situation in their surroundings, “People living near the nuclear power plant have been forced to evacuate and cannot go back to their homes.” They also wrote down the knowledge they had acquired after the earthquake/nuclear power plant accident, for example, “There are alpha rays, gamma rays, beta rays and neutron rays in radiation,” and, “Radioactive materials existed prior to the nuclear power plant accident.”

 

In addition, on the “what we want to know, questions and doubts” cards, the students gave their concerns about their health: “How much radioactive material is considered to be dangerous to have in the body?” and “What sicknesses come from radiation?” They also talked about their anxieties for the future: “How will radiation be involved in our futures?” “How many years will it be before the radiation completely leaves our bodies?” They also had questions about solving challenges: “Are there not any places suitable for the disposable of pollutants?” “When will the people who have been evacuated be able to return home?

放射能リテラシー2-3      放射能リテラシー2-4

Following on from this, Mr. Ueda gave easy to understand explanations to answer their questions based on the contents of the cards that had been produced. While looking at slides that Mr. Ueda had prepared, the students learned about the differences between radiation, radioactivity and radioactive materials, the types of radiation, and the places where radioactive materials tend to accumulate. In addition, the children learned about the radioactive materials that have always existed in the natural world by using cards with chemical symbols.

放射能リテラシー2-5

In this workshop, in addition to Mr. Ueda, the science teacher from the school also helped conduct a “cloud chamber experiment.” A “cloud chamber” is a device that visualizes radiation, which cannot normally be seen by the eye. There were many students seeing the movement of radiation with their own eyes for the first time and they showed immense interest.

放射能リテラシー2-6

Finally, after the workshop the children gave a presentation on what they were still concerned about and what else they would like to know. The second workshop will be designed based on these new questions and the things they would like to know:

 

The specific illnesses that occur in the body when exposed to radioactivity

Will there be damage to our bodies once we become adults?

When will it become possible to live safely?

Measures (e.g. for the body)

Why was there a hydrogen explosion?

Does radioactivity disappear?

 

The students evaluated the workshop as follows. A total of 96% said the workshop was “very good” or “good.” In the same way, a total of 96% said they had learned and realized “many” or “some” new things in the workshop. We also received various comments from the children: “I thought two hours would be too long, but it passed in no time while we did many things.” “Giving presentations in front of everyone is embarrassing, but it became easier because I could do it in my group first. Then I could give a presentation with confidence.

 

The second workshop is scheduled to be held in January 2014. We would like to continue reporting here on what developments the children make in their ways of thinking about radioactivity through these workshops.