Energy poses challenges to environmental studies because of climate change and other effects, and field trips are indispensable aids to learning. They enable students to see situations first-hand, and many are joyous and fun, such as field trips to forests, wetlands, wildlife reserves, or communities exhibiting positive contributions to safeguarding the natural world. Field trips to the built environment, especially those illustrating sites with raging controversies or past catastrophes are equally important in helping students turn theory into understanding of real situations. Chernobyl, one of the two worst nuclear power plant disasters, provided the venue for a field trip examining the strengths and weaknesses of nuclear power. Students had 3 weeks of preparatory classwork before departing for Kyiv, Ukraine. They spent 2 weeks there, with 1 day touring the Exclusion Zone surrounding the Chernobyl plant. Background work included basic concepts and units for measuring radiation and their biological and medical effects, types of nuclear power plants, disaster planning and response, Ukrainian history, and details of the Chernobyl accident and its effects. Participants heard from a wide variety of speakers, who presented details of the accident, its lingering consequences, efforts of the Ukrainian government and various NGOs to deal with the consequences, and Ukrainian plans for new nuclear power plants. Participants also heard both strong pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear proponents. At the end, students prepared a paper on the lessons about nuclear power from Chernobyl. Evaluations of the experience indicated the trip’s objectives were achieved. For some, the expedition proved life-altering.
Energy Field Trips: Chernobyl and the Catastrophe with Nuclear Power
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John H. Perkins, Natalie Kopytko, Kathleen M. Saul; Energy Field Trips: Chernobyl and the Catastrophe with Nuclear Power. Case Studies in the Environment 31 December 2019; 3 (1): 1–13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2018.001891
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