Radioactive dating lab middle school

Carbon has a half-life of years, which means that if you take one gram of carbon, half of it will decay in years. Different isotopes have different half-lives. The ratio of the amounts of carbon to carbon in a human is the same as in every other living thing. After death, the carbon decays and is not replaced. The carbon decays, with its half-life of 5, years, while the amount of carbon remains constant in the sample.


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By looking at the ratio of carbon to carbon in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of a formerly living thing. Radiocarbon dates do not tell archaeologists exactly how old an artifact is, but they can date the sample within a few hundred years of the age.

You might suggest that the students experiment with their graphing results to see if trends begin to form.

Flows, Cycles, and Conservation Objectives Students try to model radioactive decay by using the scientific thought process of creating a hypothesis, then testing it through inference. To define the terms half-life and radioactive decay To model the rate of radioactive decay To create line graphs from collected data To compare data To understand how radioactive decay is used to date archaeological artifacts Background Half-Life If two nuclei have different masses, but the same atomic number, those nuclei are considered to be isotopes. Have the students spill out the candies onto a flat surface.

Have the students record the number of candies they returned to the bag under the next Trial. The students should move the candies that are blank on the top to the side — these have now decayed to a stable state.

Radioactive Dating Game

The students should repeat steps 2 through 5 until all the candies have decayed or until they have completed Trial 7. Set up a place on the board where all students or groups can record their data. The students will record the results for 9 other groups in their data tables and total all the Trials for the candies NGSS Guided Inquiry Explain about radiation and half-lives of isotopes. Shake the bag and spill out the candies onto a flat surface.

Record the number of candies you returned to the bag under the next Trial. Move the candies that are blank on the top to the side — these have now decayed to a stable state. Repeat steps 2 through 5 until all the candies have decayed or until you have completed Trial 7.

Record the results for 9 other groups and total all the Trials for the candies. Do the number of atoms you start with affect the outcome?

In the Classroom

Did each group get the same results? Did any group still have candies remaining after Trial 7? What happens to the total number of candies with each trial half-life?

Half-Life : Paper, M&M’s, Pennies, or Puzzle Pieces

Plot the total results on a graph with number of candies on the vertical axis and trial number on the horizontal axis. In this activity, students gain a better understanding of radioactive dating and half-lives.

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Parent isotopes are represented by the M side up radioactive. Daughter isotopes are represented by the M side down stable. They then set aside stable isotopes During each trial, students record the number of radioactive parent isotopes and record this in a data table. Once all groups finish, each group records their info on the class decay table on the board and we calculate the averages of the class. Once this info is calculated, students create a graph comparing the class average of parent isotopes to the number of half-lives.

Classroom Activity Grade Level: Material on this page is offered under a Creative Commons license unless otherwise noted below. Paul, MN, based on an original activity retrieved from http: Paul Junior High School.

Context for Use

Summary In this activity, students gain a better understanding of radioactive dating and 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.

Frosty the Snowman Meets His Demise: An Analogy to Carbon Dating - Science NetLinks

This activity can be adapted for older students, but is used in an 8th grade earth science classroom. Class size can vary, but activity should be done in groups of Students should have the skill to set up a data table and a graph, however, if you want to use this activity with students that have not, you can provide them a template with that information. As far as mastery of content, this activity is done in our rocks and minerals unit.

Students should have some prior knowledge of rocks and how they are dated. This activity would also be easy to adapt when talking about half-lives within a chemistry course.