Strengthening and motivating the teaching of physics and nuclear science in Chile
A. E. Tarifeño-Saldivia 1*, C. Pavez 1,2, L. Soto 1,2, G. Venegas 1
1 Comisión Chilena de Energia Nuclear
2 Center for Research and Applications in Plasma Physics and Pulsed Power, P4, Chile
The recent Japanese nuclear emergency, resulting from the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, has renewed on the media and the public agenda of several countries the discussion about the issue of using nuclear energy for generation of electricity . Chile has not been absent from this contingency, the local community has reacted with fear and confusion to any activity related to nuclear science as a whole [2, 3]. It has shown the ignorance and several misconception of the public opinion about the real scope of the applications of physics and nuclear energy in different activities of our society. Furthermore, it has revealed a lack of a critical mass specialists and a well informed community in order to allow a critical discussion. The reality in our educational system is not different, primary and high school teachers should teach topics on physics and nuclear science without having a basic background on the field or having proper methodologies to deal with it. Moreover, the language creates a barrier difficult to be overpassed by our teachers because, for example, the didactic material available on Internet is mostly in English. Thus, the impact on the students, the main future users of nuclear technology, is critical. We consider this situation is to be found in some way in other countries, especially the developing ones.
The Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN) has among its missions outreach activities to the community. Yearly, around one thousand people attend guided visits to the facilities of our institution. Researchers and professional from CCHEN usually give and seminars to schools. In the past, some innovative activities have been developed by CCHEN and other institutions. For instance, the program “Jóvenes Talentos” aimed to introduce outstanding high school students in basic experimental physics activities and the nuclear physics related comic book story “Paty y Toño: Los secretos del átomo” . The most recently innovative activity is the production in collaboration with Chilean actors and artists of some entertaining videos for explaining children and general public what plasma, pulsed power and nuclear fusion is. These videos are available in youtube .
At present a project aimed on the teaching and outreach of nuclear science for high school students and also for general public in Chile is being outlined. Nowadays, the project is searching for funding and sponsorship from national and international institutions. During 2012, the project will be carried out in trial mode in Santiago. Within the activities to perform during next year we could find activities of direct participation with students, multimedia exhibitions, a science fair, a series of outreach workshops, writing and presentation of a play, production of educational material and the developing of a web site to spreading of the project. In 2012, we are going to work in collaboration with three local educational institutions and 350 elementary and high school students approximately. Our outreach activities are expected to impact around 1000 people from general public. The topics to be covered by the project are: Atoms and structure of matter, plasma physics, ionizing radiations and sources, effects of radiation on living tissue, nuclear fission and fusion, nuclear safety and dosimetry, and applications of nuclear science on medicine, agriculture, industry, mining, food, art and archeology. One key aspects of the project methodology is introducing these topics in a transversal way to different subjects of the educational curricula, such as: physics, chemistry, biology, language and communication and technology.
The final objective of this session is to generate some discussion by the scientific community about outreach of nuclear physics, and also to allow sharing of experiences and starting collaboration with scientist from other countries in teaching and spreading of nuclear physics at our host countries.
 “Japan's crisis: The world rethinks nuclear power” The week, March 16th, 2011
 “Explosión en central de Fukushima abre el debate por la energía nuclear en Chile” El mostrador,
March 13th, 2011. http://www.elmostrador.cl/noticias/pais/2011/03/13/explosion-en-central-de-fukushima-abre-el-debate-por-la-energia-nuclear-en-chile/
 “El efecto Fukushima” Revista Caras, May 18th, 2011.
 http://www.youtube.com/user/cienciaentretenida (Spanish version)
http://www.youtube.com/user/EntertainingScience (English version)