Chemistry Basics

Lesson Title: Chemistry Basics: Marie Curie and Radiation
Academic Standards: HS-PS1-8; HS_PS3-3; HS_PS4-5
Content Creator: Mrs. Wendy Martin
Level: High School
Duration: 25-35 min
  /  Chemistry Basics: Marie Curie and Radiation


  • Become familiar with the life of Marie Curie.
  • Understand Marie Curies contributions to the field of radiology.
  • understand the concept of radioactive decay and half life.
  • Be able to solve simple half life problems


Marie Curie was a pioneer in the study of radiation. Her discovery that radioactive particles were being emitted from the uranium atom led to the discovery of subatomic particles, defying the idea that the atom was indivisible. In addition, her work led to the discovery of two new elements; radium and polonium. In this two part lesson students will learn about Marie Curies early life and her work with her husband Pierre. Students will watch as Marie give her Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In the second part of this lesson students will learn about the application of her work including the concept of radioactive decay and dating methods used by science. Students will manipulate bones and rocks and solve simple half life problems. Class will conclude with a virtual trip to an imaging center where students will learn about her works applications in medicine.


  1. Introduction to Marie Curie and her early life.
  2. Have students manipulate the radium, polonium and uranium atoms.
  3. Explain her work with pitchblende and the discovery of radioactivity.
  4. Move to large space and have a mock army hospital set up for students to walk around.
  5. Discuss her mobile radiology units during WWI.
  6. Give students a list of her awards and recognitions.
  7. Move to lecture room and show her Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
  8. Move to lab area and explain the idea of radioactive decay and half life.
  9. Explain the difference between alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
  10. Explain how this method is used in dating rocks and fossils.
  11. Have students do some problems. See description in ancillary section.
  12. End with virtual field trip to imaging center.

Demonstratives & Media

Virtual Field Trips & Lab Demonstrations
Instructional Videos
3D objects

Suggested Ancillary Support

Suggested IFXs: uranium atom, polonium atom, radium atom, alpha particle, beta particle, radio waves In VictoryXRs content tab there is a presentation of Marie Curie and her Nobel Prize acceptance speech. For the mobile radiology unit I created a mock set up: and ambulance, hospital bed and equipment like table, scalpel, mask, etc. In put a female in the ambulance drivers seat since woman were trained to operate these units For the half life activities I used a couple of bones and a rock and found some very simple problems. I had one IFX and one problem per station....used 4 stations.  They used the 3D pens to solve problems. For example: In this bone, only 1/8 of the carbon remains. How may half lives have passed? If a half life is 6,000 years how old is this bone? If the half life of iodine is 8 days, how long will it take a 50g sample to decay to 6.25g.