Popcorn Model for Radioisotopic Dating

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Link to Resource: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/education/exercises/PopcornDating/home.html
Resource Type:Classroom Activities; Curricula and Instruction
Grade Level:
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Language:English
Organization:New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR)
Summary:Geologists take advantage of decay of natural radioactive elements to determine the age of rocks, which can help us understand earth history. One example of this dating method is using volcanic ash layers to help determine the age of ash-bearing horizons in ice cores. Ice cores provide important records of past climate conditions because the chemical composition of the ice reveals past temperature, and tiny bubbles of air trapped between ice crystals can reveal past atmospheric composition. The volcanic ash can be dated using a technique called Potassium-Argon (K-Ar) geochronology. The following experiment using the “kernelite/popcornium” system can help understand radioactive decay. After acquiring the data, the next step is to plot the “decay” curve of kernelite, and the “accumulation” curve of popcornium. Next use these curves first to establish the “half-life” of kernelite, and second to determine the “age” (popping time) for bags of popcorn for which the age is unknown.
Earth Science Big Ideas:Big Idea 1; Big Idea 2; Big Idea 4
NGSS Discplinary Core Ideas:ESS1.B; PS1.C
NGSS Performance Expectations:HS-ESS1-5; HS-ESS2-3; HS-PS1-8
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:Developing and using models; Engaging in argument from evidence
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation; Patterns
Subjects: 6-8; 9-12; geology; high school; middle school; radioactive dating
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