Nuclear energy, especially fission and fusion reactions, are difficult to understand for people of any age but can be especially hard for students. The idea that microscopic atoms are either combined (fusion) or split (fission) to make energy sounds almost like science fiction. Nuclear energy may also be associated with the atomic bomb, nuclear wastes, and incidents such as the Chernobyl accident. These associations can leave students believing that nuclear energy is a negative energy solution. Discussing how nuclear energy is produced is essential for students to develop a more accurate and complete understanding of this energy resource.
Watch this video of 4th and 5th grade students in San Diego, California—a coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to listen to students' ideas about nuclear energy.
For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Making Sense of Nuclear Energy" in the Energy Potential Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 24.