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Students should have some prior knowledge of rocks and how they are dated. Materials Needed: -100 M&Ms (per group) -Notebook -Piece of Paper -Plastic Container with a Lid Lesson should be introduced by reviewing the 2 broad ways scientists age rocks (relative dating and radioactive dating).
This activity would also be easy to adapt when talking about half-lives within a chemistry course. Also, review what a half-life is (info given the day prior during lecture/ notes/ reading).
Once this info is calculated, students create a graph comparing the class average of parent isotopes to the number of half-lives. Students will be able to explain what a half-life of a rock is. Students will have a more in-depth understanding of what radioactive decay is. Students will understand how scientists use half-lives to date the age of rocks. Students then should be able to see the connection of the M&Ms and radioactive elements in rocks, and how scientists can determine the age of rocks by looking at the amount of radioactive material in the rock.
Skills: -critical thinking -data analysis -questioning -graphing and data collecting Vocab Words: 1. This activity can be adapted for older students, but is used in an 8th grade earth science classroom.
As the students work on the simulation they are visualizing how stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time (CCC Stability and Change), as well as analyzing and interpreting data (SP4).
Students use M&Ms to demonstrate the idea of radioactive decay. Parent isotopes are represented by the M side up (radioactive).
A lot of the students said because they shook the containers differently... I also have students wash their hands before the activity, because of course after, the students eat the M&Ms. Radioactive decay and half-lives can be a very difficult concept for our 8th graders to grasp.