Educating the Educators: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Enhance Science Teaching

In a rapid-changing world, science teachers face considerable challenges. In addition to the basic curriculum, there must be included several transversal themes, which demand creative and innovative strategies to be arranged and integrated to traditional disciplines. In Brazil, nuclear science is still a controversial theme, and teachers themselves seem to be unaware of the issue, most often perpetuating prejudice, errors and misconceptions. This article presents the authors’ experience in the development of an interdisciplinary pedagogical proposal to include nuclear science in the basic curriculum, in a transversal and integrating way. The methodology applied was based on the analysis of several normative documents that define the requirements of essential learning, competences and skills of basic education for all schools in Brazil. The didactic materials and resources were developed according to the best practices to improve learning processes privileging constructivist educational techniques, with emphasis on active learning process, collaborative learning and learning through research. The material consists of an illustrated book for students, a book for teachers and a manual with activities that can articulate nuclear science to different disciplines: Portuguese, mathematics, science, art, English, history and geography. The content counts on high scientific rigor and articulate nuclear technology with topics of interest to society in the most diverse spheres, such as food supply, public health, food safety and foreign trade. Moreover, this pedagogical proposal takes advantage of the potential value of digital technologies, implementing QR codes that excite and challenge students of all ages, improving interaction and engagement. The expected results include the education of the educators for nuclear science communication in a transversal and integrating way, demystifying nuclear technology in a contextualized and significant approach. It is expected that the interdisciplinary pedagogical proposal contributes to improving attitudes towards knowledge construction, privileging reconstructive questioning, fostering a culture of systematic curiosity and encouraging critical thinking skills.

Web-Based Instructional Program to Improve Professional Development: Recommendations and Standards for Radioactive Facilities in Brazil

This web based project focuses on continuing corporate education and improving workers' skills in Brazilian radioactive facilities throughout the country. The potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) shall contribute to improve the global communication in this very large country, where it is a strong challenge to ensure high quality professional information to as many people as possible. The main objective of this system is to provide Brazilian radioactive facilities a complete web-based repository - in Portuguese - for research, consultation and information, offering conditions for learning and improving professional and personal skills. UNIPRORAD is a web based system to offer unified programs and inter-related information about radiological protection programs. The content includes the best practices for radioactive facilities in order to meet both national standards and international recommendations published by different organizations over the past decades: International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN). The website counts on concepts, definitions and theory about optimization and ionizing radiation monitoring procedures. Moreover, the content presents further discussions related to some national and international recommendations, such as potential exposure, which is currently one of the most important research fields in radiological protection. Only two publications of ICRP develop expressively the issue and there is still a lack of knowledge of fail probabilities, for there are still uncertainties to find effective paths to quantify probabilistically the occurrence of potential exposures and the probabilities to reach a certain level of dose. To respond to this challenge, this project discusses and introduces potential exposures in a more quantitative way than national and international recommendations. Articulating ICRP and AIEA valid recommendations and official reports, in addition to scientific papers published in major international congresses, the website discusses and suggests a number of effective actions towards safety which can be incorporated into labor practice. The WEB platform was created according to corporate public needs, taking into account the development of a robust but flexible system, which can be easily adapted to future demands. ICTs provide a vast array of new communication capabilities and allow to spread information to as many people as possible at low costs and high quality communication. This initiative shall provide opportunities for employees to increase professional skills, stimulating development in this large country where it is an enormous challenge to ensure effective and updated information to geographically distant facilities, minimizing costs and optimizing results.

Web-Based Tools to Increase Public Understanding of Nuclear Technology and Food Irradiation

Food irradiation is a processing and preservation technique to eliminate insects and parasites and reduce disease-causing microorganisms. Moreover, the process helps to inhibit sprouting and delay ripening, extending fresh fruits and vegetables shelf-life. Nevertheless, most Brazilian consumers seem to misunderstand the difference between irradiated food and radioactive food and the general public has major concerns about the negative health effects and environmental contamination. Society´s judgment and decision making are directly linked to perceived benefits and risks. The web-based project entitled ‘Scientific information about food irradiation: Internet as a tool to approach science and society’ was created by the Nuclear and Energetic Research Institute (IPEN), in order to offer an interdisciplinary approach to science education, integrating economic, ethical, social and political aspects of food irradiation. This project takes into account that, misinformation and unfounded preconceived ideas impact heavily on the acceptance of irradiated food and purchase intention by the Brazilian consumer. Taking advantage of the potential value of the Internet to enhance communication and education among general public, a research study was carried out regarding the possibilities and trends of Information and Communication Technologies among the Brazilian population. The content includes concepts, definitions and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about processes, safety, advantages, limitations and the possibilities of food irradiation, including health issues, as well as its impacts on the environment. The project counts on eight self-instructional interactive web courses, situating scientific content in relevant social contexts in order to encourage self-learning and further reflections. Communication is a must to improve public understanding of science. The use of information technology for quality scientific divulgation shall contribute greatly to provide information throughout the country, spreading information to as many people as possible, minimizing geographic distances and stimulating communication and development.

The Nuclear Energy Museum in Brazil: Creative Solutions to Transform Science Education into Meaningful Learning

Nuclear technology is a controversial issue among a great share of the Brazilian population. Misinformation and common wrong beliefs confuse public’s perceptions and the scientific community is expected to offer a wider perspective on the benefits and risks resulting from ionizing radiation in everyday life. Attentive to the need of new approaches between science and society, the Nuclear Energy Museum, in northeast Brazil, is an initiative created to communicate the growing impact of the beneficial applications of nuclear technology in medicine, industry, agriculture and electric power generation. Providing accessible scientific information, the museum offers a rich learning environment, making use of different educational strategies, such as films, interactive panels and multimedia learning tools, which not only increase the enjoyment of visitors, but also maximize their learning potential. Developed according to modern active learning instructional strategies, multimedia materials are designed to present the increasingly role of nuclear science in modern life, transforming science education into a meaningful learning experience. In year 2016, nine different interactive computer-based activities were developed, presenting curiosities about ionizing radiation in different landmarks around the world, such as radiocarbon dating works in Egypt, nuclear power generation in France and X-radiography of famous paintings in Italy. Feedback surveys have reported a high level of visitors’ satisfaction, proving the high quality experience in learning nuclear science at the museum. The Nuclear Energy Museum is the first and, up to the present time, the only permanent museum in Brazil devoted entirely to nuclear science.

A Corporate Social Responsibility Project to Improve the Democratization of Scientific Education in Brazil

Nuclear technology is part of our everyday life and its beneficial applications help to improve the quality of our lives. Nevertheless, in Brazil, most often the media and social networks tend to associate radiation to nuclear weapons and major accidents, and there is still great misunderstanding about the peaceful applications of nuclear science. The Educational Portal Radioatividades (Radioactivities) is a corporate social responsibility initiative that takes advantage of the growing impact of Internet to offer high quality scientific information for teachers and students throughout Brazil. This web-based initiative focusses on the positive applications of nuclear technology, presenting the several contributions of ionizing radiation in different contexts, such as nuclear medicine, agriculture techniques, food safety and electric power generation, proving nuclear technology as part of modern life and a must to improve the quality of our lifestyle. This educational project aims to contribute for democratization of scientific education and social inclusion, approaching society to scientific knowledge, promoting critical thinking and inspiring further reflections. The website offers a wide variety of ludic activities such as curiosities, interactive exercises and short courses. Moreover, teachers are offered free web-based material with full instructions to be developed in class. Since year 2013, the project has been developed and improved according to a comprehensive study about the realistic scenario of ICTs infrastructure in Brazilian schools and in full compliance with the best e-learning national and international recommendations.