Streamlining nuclear science and technology into classroom curricula through NUCLEANDO
As radiation is increasingly used to treat cancer, protect groundwater sources, produce energy or diagnose non-communicable disease, there is a need to further develop the technical and scientific capacities available in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Regional Strategic Profile of ARCAL, an IAEA-supported cooperative agreement, has identified an insufficient or uneven level of nuclear science education as a persistent constraint to development. NUCLEANDO is a suite of digital tools, resources and software designed to help primary and secondary school teachers in the region streamline nuclear science and technology into their curricula, in an engaging and interactive manner.
The objective of the regional project, which enjoys the active participation of 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, is to strengthen the availability of nuclear expertise and knowledge in the region in a sustainable and self-reliant manner, primarily by enhancing nuclear education at the primary and secondary levels. By integrating nuclear education into existing programmes, NUCLEANDO aims to engage the curiosity and interest of young students, and to familiarize them with concepts and ideas in nuclear science and the contributions of nuclear technology to development and the SDGs. This, in turn, will support the growing pipeline of young scientists entering the nuclear field in Latin America and the Caribbean, ensuring that the services of national nuclear institutions can be sustainably delivered into the future.
By widening the scope of early science education and by presenting scientific concepts in an engaging and novel manner, NUCLEANDO contributes directly to (SDG 4). By broadening access to science education and knowledge-sharing throughout the region with a view to unlocking the full potential of nuclear technology to accelerate development, NUCLEANDO contributes to (SDG 17.6.)
The original conception and proposal for NUCLEANDO emerged following discussions between pedagogical and software development experts at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) of Argentina. The NUCLEANDO initiative was initially conceived of by CNEA and its development was subsequently expanded by the representatives of nine Member States of both the IAEA and the Latin American Network for Education in Nuclear Technology (LANENT). Since its preliminary design and conception, the suite of scholastic tools and components has been broadened with the help of regional partners, who have designed new modules, uploaded 3D tours and recorded interactive lectures. NUCLEANDO was first presented to teachers in San José, Costa Rica, in August 2019 during a pilot training course, organized with the help of the Costa Rican National Administration of Public Education (ANEP). Since then, and following the official launch of the platform, a number of large training courses, workshops and knowledge exchange events have been organized to ensure the broadest adoption of NUCLEANDO’s components by the teaching community in the region. After training courses attended by teachers from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico, the most recent training course implemented as part of the ongoing regional TC project gave 35 high school teachers from Uruguay the opportunity to explore and familiarize themselves with the NUCLEANDO suite, and to consider the benefits it may confer on their student bodies. These teachers—who specialize in astronomy, biology, chemistry and physics—have returned to their respective classrooms across Uruguay and have begun to streamline nuclear science into their school syllabus, with the help of NUCLEANDO.
With the help and support of LANENT, NUCLEANDO’s package of interactive teaching tools has been used in over 200 classrooms in the region, reaching more than 6,000 students in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay. It is estimated that around 250,000 students in the region will be able to explore nuclear science with the help of NUCLEANDO, exposing them to critical themes in science at an earlier age. To expand the implementation of NUCLEANDO in Latin American and Caribbean classrooms, the IAEA established an interregional nuclear learning database, which provides documents and presentations of interest to the regional educational community. By beginning at the primary and secondary levels, NUCLEANDO’s growing use is expected to produce an appreciable increase in the number of tertiary and university-level students pursuing nuclear science as a professional vocation, thereby supporting the application of nuclear technologies well into the future.
Throughout its implementation, the NUCLEANDO initiative benefitted from the strong ownership and commitment of institutional partners in the region. The involvement of experts from both LANENT and FORO, who helped to continuously support and improve NUCLEANDO’s technical contents, was an important enabling factor of this initiative. Efforts are being made to foster NUCELANDO’s potential multiplier effect in close coordination with the relevant Ministries of Education and to launch a number of new, IT-focused train-the-trainer courses.
NUCLEANDO’s approach to early science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is novel, yet its contents remain flexible and modular. Regardless of their location in the region, the prior experience of their students, or the grade level at which they teach, NUCLEANDO offers teachers the tools and resources to streamline nuclear science into their broader curricula, often in the context of general science or chemistry classes. At present, the only factor limiting NUCLEANDO’s replication in other regions is language. All existing components are available in Spanish, exclusively. Nevertheless, there are plans to translate and localize the initiative’s many modules into English, and subsequently into other official languages of the United Nations. NUCLEANDO is expected to be replicated and introduced into the Africa region, with the support of the African Network for Education in Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA-NEST).
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, engineers and software developers involved with the initiative reformatted and revised the bulk of the NUCLEANDO suite, to ensure their accessibility and usability as remote resources. Additionally, whereas NUCLEANDO trainings were initially provided in a standard, in-person format, those same training courses have been reformulated to be delivered remotely and online, which in turn has allowed for broader outreach while using fewer resources. With school absences and non-attendance during COVID-19 pandemic, NUCLEANDO’s digital components remained accessible. Posters, courses and videos support student self-studying, using equipment and resources provided either by the school or included within the NUCLEANDO package.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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Latin America and the Caribbean