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Radioactive Material in Science Classrooms

Radiation Facts

  • Only use radioactive materials in your school as directed by your teacher.
  • Follow instructions on how to use and store radioactive materials properly.

Some schools use radioactive materials in their science classrooms or laboratories to teach about radiation in our world and to demonstrate the concept of shielding.

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About Radioactive Material in Science Classrooms

A group of high school students perform a science experiment in their school's laboratory. 

Radioactive materials can be used in some interesting classroom experiments. Sometimes, teachers use a Geiger counter and a radioactive source to teach students about shielding. Chemistry, physics, and earth science labs are some of the places where radioactive materials could be used in schools. Schools administrators and teachers are responsible for ensuring that students are protected from radioactive materials in classrooms or laboratories and for the proper labeling and storage of radioactive materials when they are not in use. If a radioactive material is used in the classroom or lab, it is likely a very small amount of a low energy source, like a small piece of rock that contains low energy, naturally-occurring uranium.

To use and store radioactive materials safely in the classroom, containers must be correctly labeled and sealed. Descriptive labels will let teachers and students know which materials are radioactive. The storage containers should be made of material that will keep the radiation inside the container. Storage container materials will depend on the type of radiation, but could include wood, lead, or other metals.

Some radioactive material does not pose an external hazard to students and teachers. Alpha radiation cannot go through your skin, but can register on a Geiger counter. One interesting experiment is to hold a Geiger counter near a piece of old, orange or red Fiestaware. Learn more about Radioactivity in Antiques

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What You Can Do

  • Learn more. Your school's science department may use radioactive materials. Talk to your science teacher to find out how you can learn more about experiments using radiation in your school.

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