Radioactive dating activity high school




Ancient Ruins and Old Bones

Radioactive Dating: Lesson for Kids

Scientists measure both and they can determine how much carbon was initially in an object and exactly how much has decayed. The older something is, the less carbon will still be present in that something! Radioactive dating involves looking at the amount of decay that has occurred in order to estimate how old things are.

Scientists think about the half-life of certain organic materials and using this constant decay rate to figure out the exact age of a found object based on how much one radioactive substance like carbon has decayed. Carbon has a half-life of 5, years. To unlock this lesson you must be a Study. Login here for access.

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Learning Goals

Have you ever seen an ancient ruin and wondered how old it is? In this lesson, you will learn about how scientists estimate the age of things when they are not sure using predictable decay rates.


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  • We will discover what a half life is and why it is important! Ancient Ruins and Old Bones Are you curious how old dinosaur bones really are and how scientists figure out their age? Growth and Decay Some materials change with a predictable pace. Try it risk-free No obligation, cancel anytime. Want to learn more? Select a subject to preview related courses: Lesson Summary Radioactive dating involves looking at the amount of decay that has occurred in order to estimate how old things are.

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

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    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.

    New information needed to be introduced with parent and daughter isotopes. Once students are in their groups, with supplies, and general directions are given, they are on their own for doing their runs. They will do this 8 times. Once they are finished with their 8 runs, they will record their data on the class data table which can be on the board. Once all groups data is on the table, you can calculate the average for each run and determine a class average.

    Students should recognize each time the number should go down by appx half.

    Context for Use

    Then students take the class data and create a graph comparing the number of parent isotopes to the number of half-lives. Once this is done, students have some post questions they are given that they should record in their science notebook. The first post question caused some confusion: Why didn't each group get the same results? A lot of the students said because they shook the containers differently This was a new activity we implemented last tear.

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