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Celeb science

  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Group discussion
Topic: Radioactive decay

In a world obsessed with celebrities, many of us are influenced by their opinions on a wide range of subjects. But people in the public eye often promote theories and campaigns that make no scientific sense. Madonna, for example, wants to convince the nuclear industry that magic Kabbalah water can neutralise radioactive waste. Through the context of radioactive waste disposal, this activity looks at why we should question the opinions of prominent personalities and gets students to consider

14-16 How Science Works:
How science works
Applications and implications of science
4c How uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time and about the role of the scientific community in validating these changes.

Published: 23rd May 2007
Reviews & Comments: 13

Learning objectives

Students will:
• describe the dangers of radioactive waste
• explain the problems storing radioactive waste from power stations
• evaluate the reliability of people's opinions and scientific claims
• understand why new ideas about scientific issues need to be validated by scientists

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Radiation and nuclear waste.

Please see downloadable teachers notes for details of links to individual GCSE specifications.

Running the activity

Page 1 introduces the activity with a news story about Madonna and Guy Ritchie. The couple have been lobbying the government and the nuclear industry to clean up radioactive waste from nuclear power stations with a magic Kabbalah fluid. Ask small groups to discuss the first and second questions at the bottom of the page. Tell them that page 2 will help them to answer the third question.

Page 2 briefly explains the science behind radioactive waste. Ask small groups to rank the possible methods of storing Intermediate Level Waste. Get a few groups to justify their ranking to the class. Ask students where they have placed Madonna's suggestion, and why.

Page 3 asks students to consider how much they would trust the opinion of a variety of famous people. Ask groups to sort the cards into 3 groups, as described on the sheet. Then allocate one card to each group. Get students to consider:
• Why should you take notice of this person's opinion?
• Why should you NOT take notice of this person's opinion?
• On what issues do you think you could believe this person's opinion?

An excellent leaflet (Science for Celebrities) from the charity Sense About Science could be used to support this activity and provide additional material for class discussion.

Page 4 describes an activity that you could use to assess students' learning. Students write from Sense about Science to Madonna, giving their opinion on her claim's for the magical Kabbalah water. Their e-mail will also give a brief scientific explanation of the dangers of radioactive waste and the problems with disposal.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

king tuts face

Jul 13th, 2014

5 Star

i did this activity with a year 7 group, extremely engaging pupils made models of the face, very interactive. many thanks

Reviewer: Ruta Patki

Celeb science review

May 4th, 2011

5 Star

found it very useful with lower ability year 9 group as a summary popint for their BTEC

Reviewer: colin white


Jul 12th, 2009

4 Star

The idea was nearly perfect and allowed students to discuss scientific ideas without realizing that they were in fact doing it.
The task allowed a number of concepts to be neatly tied together. Well worth using.
I used this task with a lower level group of students and found it worked really well.

Reviewer: mike mcnicholas

Celeb science review

Feb 27th, 2009

4 Star

The class found the lesson endlessly fascinating, realising that in fact it is better to group the famous people in to two groups only, as most have not shown a lack of science knowledge- thought it better not to open the new age can of worms relating to the heir to the throne. i also had the issue with michael moore but circumvented it by using him in the starter - impling that the fact he looks behind the assumptions of society and looks for facts in the way a scientist looks for data. also this worked very well after a lesson on cold fusionthe students enjoyed to compare the responsibilities of each group.

Reviewer: mick turner

Celeb Science

Jul 11th, 2008

5 Star

I used this activity with my bottom set Yr10 whilst on PGCE placement at an all boys school. It went down very well. The boys were engaged and participated throughout the lesson. They loved the fact that knew the all the people used in the illustrations and that they could make their own choices and then debate them with the rest of the group. Overall an excellent activity and one that i would use again.

Reviewer: naomi weysom

Check who writes science for celebrities

Jan 30th, 2008

4 Star

I thought this was an excellent activity and it went very well in my lesson. however, i have done some research about the group that authored the original leaflet and they are interesting to say the least. check this article for more information

Reviewer: Tom Inger

Day after tomorrow

Jan 3rd, 2008

4 Star

This activity was a good resource to make students aware of the dicotomy of global warming and ice eage effects. Through this activity they recognise that the gulf stream could get affected by the the melting of the ice caps. Running this activity with a clip of the block buster The day after tomoorow makes the concpets accessible to all types of learner.

Reviewer: Leonora Vincent

Celeb science review

Jun 28th, 2007

5 Star

I used this for a job interview lesson where the topic was 'how scientific ideas change through time' to a higher ability Year 7 class. We talked about what scientific ideas are, and I asked the pupils to come up with some examples. I then introduced the idea of fact and opinion, and used the card sort part of the activity to help pupils decide whose opinion is best to trust on scientific ideas. It went down fantastically, with all the pupils engaged and discussing in groups where to categorise each card. Oh, and I got the job!

Reviewer: Hannah Hoon

Celeb Science

Jun 16th, 2007

4 Star

I have just read up about the celeb science. I am currently putting together a programme to look at critical thinking for science with our Yr 9 students. This topic is going to be well suited for this joined with other items in which students can decipher what is fact and opinion, leading on to uncertainties. Hopefully this will get them to think more and understand better how science works. Looking forward to using it and will feedback in due course.

Reviewer: Maria Girardi

Sense about science

Jun 8th, 2007

5 Star

I used an article on misconceptions in nuclear chemistry (Nakiboğlu and Tekinas, Journal Chemical Education, Vol 83, No. 11, p1712, 2006) the basis of a short unit earlier this year. We also looked at th media (primarily internet) as a source of misconceptions. This activity will be a welcome addition to the revamped unit next year.

Reviewer: Jan Gentner

Sense about Science

Jun 7th, 2007

5 Star

Jim Garrett, have you come across It also tries to debunk misconceptions and pseudoscience and may also help with How Science Works topics.

Reviewer: John Pindar

Celeb science review

Jun 7th, 2007

5 Star

Looks good and gives students a better idea about the nature of expertise. I have one quibble - the linking together of David Attenborough and Michael Moore. These are two very different creatures with very different methods and aims. Personally I would be more inclined to believe Attenborough than Moore.

Reviewer: Andrew Crysell

Sense about science

Jun 6th, 2007

5 Star

Haven't yet tried the activity but I am very pleased to have found out about the 'sense from science' website & information. Topical & relevant, I'm surprised I hadn't come across this before. It is to be recommended to all science teachers struggling with the new GCSE!

Reviewer: jim garrett