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 1 – Workshop Begins (December 26, 2013)

<Children learn about radioactivity and develop the ability to be able to make their own judgments>

 

“When do the effects of radiation disappear?”

“Is food all right now?”

“What happens to the decontaminated soil?”

“How dangerous is it to be exposed to radiation?”

“Is it possible that people will avoid us in the future because we are a ‘Fukushima Person’?”

 

If you were asked a question like one of these by a child, how would you answer? In fact, these questions and doubts were those that were actually voiced by children who participated in a workshop to learn about radioactivity. The workshop was held in a middle school in Fukushima through Save the Children Japan (SCJ). Among these questions, there are those we cannot give immediate answers to or think of solutions for. Even so, we think that there are two very important points: (1) Adults should listen carefully to the thoughts and questions from children about radioactivity and then think about them together, and (2) Children should learn from the opinions of other children and their own findings to develop the ability to make their own judgments about radioactivity.

 

Under this awareness, we at SCJ started a project called “Radioactivity Literacy” with the aim of helping children acquire abilities to learn about radioactivity, read and understand information, and make judgments on their own. The main activities of this project are the organization of a workshop for children to learn about radioactivity, the creation of educational materials, and then the actual holding of the workshop. In October 2013, we began the development of educational materials and a workshop for children together with Citizen’s Science Initiative Japan – an NPO that is our partner organization in this project. On November 26, we held the first workshop using these test materials in a middle school in Fukushima. This article gives an introduction to this workshop.

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<Everyone brainstorms about radioactivity>

A total of 33 third grade middle school students participated in this workshop. The facilitator of the workshop was Mr. Masafumi Ueda from Citizen’s Science Initiative Japan. The participating children were sixth grade elementary school students at the time of the nuclear power plant accident. The graduation ceremonies of their elementary schools were called off in the confusion following the earthquake and nuclear power plant accident. They have also suffered tough experiences even after becoming middle school students, such as not being able to exercise outside.

 

In the workshop, to start with, the children wrote on cards “what we had experienced and seen/heard” about radioactivity and “our concerns, questions, anxieties and what we want to know” in regards to this topic. Instead of unilaterally communicating knowledge, saying, “It is necessary for children to have this knowledge,” we first listened to the opinions of children and then proceeded with the workshop based on what the children wanted to know.

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On the cards about “what we had experienced and seen/heard,” the students listed a great many personal experiences and the basics of what they had learned about in their classes on radiation. Such classes started the previous year, where students learned about measurements and the responses taken directly after the nuclear power plant accident.

 

“It was very sad that people evacuated and left behind many dogs.”

“I went to get water from Arakawa River.”

“I performed an exposure test with a whole body counter.”

“We replaced the soil in the schoolyard.”

“There are alpha, beta, and gamma radiation rays and more.”

“I have been asked by people from other prefectures about whether the food of Fukushima is alright.”

“Radiation is also used in medical science.”

“I did not know what information was correct.”

“People are liable to become sick in the future if they are exposed to a large amount of radioactivity.”

 

There were also comments such as those below on the cards about “our concerns, questions, anxieties and what we want to know.

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“When will we be able to go into the evacuation zone?”

“Where is the contaminated soil being collected and how will it be dealt with?”

“What is the future of nuclear power?”

“Is there food that can suppress internal exposure?

“Is there any meaning to wearing masks and hats?”

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<Thinking about measures for radioactivity>

After brainstorming about radioactivity, the children thought about measures as a support team to protect themselves and Fukushima in the future. They also looked at a diagram that showed the extent of radioactivity in the environments they live in, such as in the atmosphere, forests, agricultural land and urban areas. Although they could not find solutions straight away, the discussions moved along well with the student’s homeroom teacher contributing: “What about the decontamination here?” “How about this method?” We then saw a number of ideas come out: “Measure the forests and agricultural land” and “Eat inspected food.”

 

Finally, the children played the “shopping game” in which they chose the ingredients for their dinner that day. The children chose 10 items they wanted to eat for dinner from photographs of various types of vegetable, meat, fish, fruit, milk and more. After this, everyone checked together the amount of radioactive material that was contained in the food they had chosen by referring to information on a website that has published the inspection results of radioactive materials. The children listened intently and with great interest to the detailed explanations from Mr. Ueda about the foods in which radioactive materials have been detected together with the reasons.

 

<The impressions of the children on the workshop>

“When thinking about the 10 foods to have for one dinner, it was fun to see the specific radiation dose values. Also, I was interested in what the results were for the other ingredients.”

 

“It was great to work actively in groups. It was good to be able to discover new things that we can do and it was good to clarify what we would like to do in the future.”

 

“Because we used a nickname and not his real name, it was possible to talk with the sense of him being a friend rather than a teacher. I wanted to know about what the world thinks of nuclear power [compared to the time of the earthquake].”

 

“It was very nice to have this opportunity because there are few chances to think deeply about this subject. I think the media should accurately convey information to other people because even those of us living in Fukushima do not know about so many things and have a lot of worries. I would like those watching to also have media literacy.”

 

“I learned again that radioactivity has an impact on a wide area that includes the human body and food, in addition to the environment. I was a little annoyed we were not able to come up with improvement measures as we would have liked. I hope that it is possible to draw up improvement measures that lead the way to the future from now on. Furthermore, if there is anything that I can do by myself to bring about improvement, no matter how small, I hope to do so.”

 

SCJ has already started to look back at the results and challenges of this workshop and proceed with preparations for the next one. Please look forward to our next report on radioactivity literacy.