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RadTown Radiation Exposure Activity 7: Radiation: Fact or Fiction

Radiation Exposure Activity

Radiation Exposure Image

How do your students tell the difference between fact and fiction? This activity encourages critical thinking skills by examining pop-culture that uses radiation as a plot point. While we all might want super heroes, a "radioactive spider" or a gamma ray experiment will definitely not give us super powers! This activity is intended for middle and high school students.

On this page:


Students will examine their understanding of radiation as well as any misconceptions they have about exposure.

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Next Generation Science Standards

The concepts in this activity can be used to support the following science standard:

  • PS4. Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

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Materials and Resources

Each italicized document title can be found at the bottom of this page, and is available for printing and distribution.

  • Radiation Exposure: Teacher Background Information
  • Vocabulary Materials
  • Superheroes Worksheet (one per student, pair or group) and Superheroes: Teacher Answer Key (optional)
  • Radiation: Fact or Fiction? Quiz (one per student, pair or group) and Radiation: Fact or Fiction? Teacher Answer Key (optional)
  • Student access to computers or research sources (optional)

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45-60 minutes.

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  • Ionizing radiation
  • Radiation
  • Radiation exposure
  • Radioactive atom 
  • Radioactive material

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  1. Start with a vocabulary activity if students are not familiar with radiation and the terms used in this activity, or provide students with the terms and definitions.
  2. Ask students to name superheroes that received or lost their powers when exposed to radiation or distribute the Superheroes Worksheet for students to complete in small groups.
  3. Explain that cartoons, comics or movies may help fuel myths about radiation.
  4. Ask students to provide examples of myths that people may have about radiation exposure (e.g., radiation exposure will make you glow) and potential sources of this misinformation such as movies, comics, video games, other media sources and people.
  5. Explain that we may receive misinformation from various sources and perceive it to be true. That is why it is important to verify information with reliable resources. Have students complete one or more of the following activities:
    • ​​Option A: Radiation Fact or Fiction? Quiz. Have students complete the quiz and work in groups to rewrite fictitious statements as factually accurate statements providing as much detail as possible. Review the correct responses and students’ factually accurate statements.
    • Option B: Research Project. Have students:
      • Brainstorm and list what they know or have heard about radiation in general, or particular radiation sources and any questions or concerns they have about radiation.
      • Predict whether the information they have received is fact or fiction.
      • Conduct research, listing the sources, to confirm whether the statements are fact or fiction, answer any questions raised, and address any concerns. Rewrite any fictitious statements as factually accurate statements.
      • Submit a written report, develop a presentation or use technology (e.g., post to an educational wiki or create a video or online game) to share findings and educate.
    • Option C: Superhero Research Project. Have students:
      • Brainstorm what they know about a particular superhero (e.g., Superman; Spider-Man; the Incredible Hulk; Daredevil; the Fantastic Four; Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom; or Radioactive Man)
      • Predict what perceptions or misconceptions about radiation existed or what radiation- related events occurred around the time of the superhero’s creation.
      • Conduct research, listing the sources, to identify the radiation perceptions or misconceptions that existed or the radiation events that occurred before or at the time of the superhero’s development. For example, Superman was developed as an Action Comics character in the 1930s when people were beginning to understand the effects of ionizing radiation and the need for protection. Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four were created in the 1960s after the development of the atomic bomb or during the nuclear arms race and widespread nuclear weapons testing.
      • Submit a written report, develop a presentation or use technology (e.g., post to an educational wiki or create a video or online game) to share findings and educate classmates.
  6. Conclude the activity with the following questions. You can have students respond orally or in writing:

    • How can you tell the difference between fact and fiction? This can sometimes be a challenge when made up, misleading, or misinterpreted information (fiction) is believed to be fact. However, a fact can be proven true with evidence and fiction cannot.
    • Why do you think knowing the difference between fact and fiction is important when you are learning about radiation? Knowing the facts about radiation and radiation protection can help people effectively protect themselves from harmful and unnecessary exposure to radiation.
    • We are presented with lots of information and misinformation about radiation. How can you ensure you have accurate information? Use reliable resources to verify the information you receive—textbooks, professional journals, books and papers and websites of professional organizations related to radiation and health physics, federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state and local agencies like departments of health.
    • What misconceptions did you have about radiation and what did you learn when correcting those misconceptions? Answers will vary.

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Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

The concepts in the Radiation: Fact or Fiction? activity align with the following standards:

  • CCSS English Language Arts Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects:
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6-12.1 Comprehension and Collaboration
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6-12.2 Comprehension and Collaboration
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6-12.4 Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-12.1 Key Ideas and Details
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-12.2 Key Ideas and Details
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-12.3 Key Ideas and Details
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-12.4 Craft and Structure
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-12.7 Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-12.1 Text Types and Purposes

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Printable Worksheets and Classroom Aids

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