“I wanted my students to culminate their chemistry experience with a healthy debate of a real problem.”
STEAM Teacher Marilyn Weiss designed a project to allow her “Advanced Chemistry” students to think deeper about a key area of scientific study: nuclear energy. With half of the class arguing for using nuclear energy and half of the class arguing against, the discussion was lively, intense, and thoroughly researched.
“This was a chance to show off different strengths,” Mrs. Weiss explained. Preparing for a debate meant students to had to explore all sorts of academic skills: research, public speaking, collaboration, a strong understanding of science, and the importance of thinking on your feet. Each group gave a pre-written opening statement. From there, each team had the chance to refute the others’ claims.
The anti-nuclear side worried about the expensive costs of this fuel source—from building the reactors to the upkeep needed to keep them running—and potential safety hazards in case of a chemical meltdown. “Nuclear energy is not the only thing that can save the earth,” said Matan ‘25. These students pushed for other alternatives, like focusing on advancing solar power.
“Nuclear energy is our best interim option until a safer, infinite source is found,” rebutted Judah ‘25. Pro-nuclear debaters brought up the present demand for a new energy source and the ways that nuclear energy has become safer in recent years. While there have been accidents from nuclear plants in the past, they argued that safety regulations have been updated to ensure that similar incidents are less likely to occur.
In the end, there was no “winner” of the debate. “The goal was for the students to form a scientific opinion,” said Mrs. Weiss. From the excitement in the room, it seems like they did!