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Nuclear Decay
This lesson provides an overview of basic atomic structure and the concept of radioactive decay. Topics include the particles that make up an atom, binding forces, and the concept of isotopes. There is also discussion of decay methods and half-life versus activity. The lesson includes an activity in which students use online applets to investigate the half-life and activity of selected isotopes and to examine possible decay chains for some others. They will also use a pair of dice to simulate the process of decay.
Intended for grade levels:
  • High (9-12)
  • College (13-14)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Classroom activity
    • Computer activity
  • Environmental science
  • Natural hazards
  • Physics
Technical requirements:
Adobe Acrobat reader
Java plug-in is required to run applets
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
The materials found on this website were created and compiled by the Environmental Science Activity for the 21st Century (ESA21) project's authors for use by educational institutions and the general public. Copyrighted materials from sources other than the ESA21 authors are used with permission from the original creator. A good faith effort has been made to comply with U.S. copyright law. While the ESA21 authors and Kennesaw State University retain copyright to their materials, permission is given to use them freely in electronic and/or print form at educational institutions for non-profit purposes, as long as source and author are indicated. Use of these materials or edited versions of these materials for profit without the written approval of the project authors and Kennesaw state University is strictly prohibited.
DLESE Catalog ID: ESA-000-000-000-035
Related resources:
This resource requires 'Half-life Applet'
This resource requires 'Radioactive Decay Applet'
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: Kennesaw State University
Environmental Science Activities for the 21st Century (ESA21)

Author: John Pratte
Arkansas State University