Students use M&Ms to demonstrate the idea of radioactive decay. Parent isotopes are represented by the M side up (radioactive).
Paul, MN, based on an original activity retrieved from also with the help of Jenni Johansen (other 8th grade science teacher at So. Paul Junior High School In this activity, students gain a better understanding of radioactive dating and half-lives.
Required equipment includes popcorn, vegetable oil, a pan and a hot plate (a hot air popper or other popcorn popper would work too).
If you're doing it the old-fashioned way (pan and hot plate), a bit of newspaper would be a good idea, too, as I like to leave the top of the pan off and the oil can splatter a bit.
The first post question caused some confusion: Why didn't each group get the same results?
Popping popcorn in your class is an excellent way to illustrate both the spontaneity and irreversible change associated with radioactive decay.Once students are in their groups, with supplies, and general directions are given, they are on their own for doing their runs.