Last updated: April 23, 2021
Current Events – Uranium Mining
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Literacy and Language Arts,Science,Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 60 Minutes
- State Standards:
- Arizona State Standards
How do we work together to find sustainable solutions to everyday problems?
• Learn about uranium mining and uranium use in everyday life
• Understand the risks associated with uranium mining near vital watersheds
• Develop civics skills in a town hall style debate
- Mohave County Letter (PDF)
- Uranium Mining Articles (PDF)
Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon is a controversial subject. On one hand, Uranium powers our homes and cities. On the other, it is harmful to the environment, can pollute water resources, and can tarnish sacred sites of Indigenous Americans.
Over the years, Uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park has been controversial. At times, mining near the park has been permitted, at other times it has been banned.
This lesson takes shape in the form of a townhall style debate. Why would uranium mining near Grand Canyon be a good idea? Why might it be a bad idea? As a class, students will be split into four groups with varying perspectives on the issue: The Miners, Havasupai, Grand Canyon National Park Rangers, and Journalists. All of you will be trying to shape the opinion of Arizona citizens.
This could be done in one or more class periods.
Prompt students: What in your room is powered by electricity? Have students share with the class.
In Arizona, how much (percentage) of the state’s energy comes from nuclear power plants. Do you know where your electricity comes from? Is it gas, coal, wind, solar, nuclear, etc?Nuclear power plants are powered by uranium. Does anyone know what uranium is?
Uranium is a metallic, silver-gray element, with atomic number 92. People have to mine this mineral to power nuclear reactors and create nuclear energy. It’s also how nuclear weapons are created. In Grand Canyon, a place with little water, uranium mining is happening very close by. Even though mining isn’t happening in the Canyon itself, whenever there is rain or snow runoff, it carries contaminated water from the nearby mines, ultimately making its way into the Colorado River.
To understand more about the pros and cons of mining Uranium and using nuclear energy, watch the following videos:
- Pros and Cons | Energy4me
- What are the Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy? | Let's Talk Science (letstalkscience.ca)
Watch the short film (9 minutes long) called “Too Precious to Mine”/Film to Fuel Action.
Today we’re going to have a town hall meeting and you all, as a class, are going to decide what should be done about allowing uranium mining near Grand Canyon.
Now you are going to split up into four groups. Each group is going to read about one perspective on this issue. You are going to represent one group of stakeholders in the decision on whether to allow mining. Miners, Havasupai, Grand Canyon National Park rangers, and Journalists, are all trying to shape the opinion of Arizona citizens.
Each group will read this short letter and then you’ll have a few minutes to discuss with your group. Regardless of your personal opinion, you must represent the perspectives of your assigned group. In your group, pick one or two representatives to explain your perspective to the rest of the class.
Then we’ll begin the town hall meeting. It will be your responsibility to come up with a solution.
This is all about being a good citizen. It is important to see different sides of an issue and figure out a solution that suits everyone.
Preparation: Read the corresponding stakeholder document with your small groups. Pick one or two people to represent your group. Write down 3 key reasons why Arizona citizens should support YOUR SIDE. Write 1 counterargument that another group would likely use, and then a defense for that counter argument.
Debate Schedule: Each group gets 4 minutes to argue their side. They will then have 2 minutes to be cross-examined by other groups. After each group has presented their argument, there will be 1 minute for each group to present an optional rebuttal.
Conclusion: There will be a vote held on if uranium mining should continue near Grand Canyon.
What helped you to learn today?
What surprised you? What made your thinking change?
How well did we work together as a team? What could we have done better at today?
How might you explain this topic to a friend or family member?