Can Leetso and Hozho' Coexist?
Uranium Education for Middle School Students
This unit (Can Leetso and Hozhˇ Coexist?) is designed for middle school students in communities where Cold War uranium mining and milling
has had a negative impact on local water and public health. The Colorado Plateau area of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona is a region of
particularly significant deposits of uranium-bearing rocks that have been mined and milled since the 19th century. Over 1100 abandoned uranium mines
exist on the Navajo (DinÚ) Nation alone. With this in mind, the DinÚ concept of hozhˇ is presented as the fundamental model for living in balance
and harmony in a natural world. The DinÚ word for uranium is Leetso, meaning "yellow-brown" which is the color of uranium ore. Many community members
in the affected areas of the reservation consider Leetso a monster.
The overarching goal of the unit is to increase student understanding of the facts and issues related to the uranium industry so as to dispel myths,
fears, and rumors. Students are challenged to consider many different perspectives in order to make decisions about their personal behavior and about
community issues related to the nuclear industry. With this in mind, two primary "enduring" understandings shape the unit: living in harmony in a nuclear
world and consequences of nuclear resource extraction.
Assessment of the students' understanding is based upon the evidence described on the pages for each of these "enduring" concepts. Included as evidence
are performance tasks and projects, the prompts that underlie these projects, lab activities, quizzes, informal observations by you, peer and self-evaluations,
in addition to your evaluations of these final tasks. You should provide the rubrics for these evaluations at the beginning of each project so that all
students have a clear understanding of what is expected. Clarification of criteria along the way may be necessary to facilitate student success. I anticipate
that this unit will take a full nine weeks to provide adequate time for student research and collaboration, as well as time to complete the field trips,
structured lab activities, demonstrations, view videos, and hear guest speakers.
Based on the two "enduring" understandings identified as critical in this unit of study, seven essential questions guide student inquiry (see Table 1 -
Cirrcular Framework). In the table, the first four questions are linked to the concept of hozhˇ; the
last three questions are related to the consequences of nuclear resource extraction. In practice, all seven questions relate to each of the "enduring"
understandings as the suggested sequence for presenting the unit shifts back and forth between them.
The recommended sequence of study (see numbers on the Facet Chart) presents a linear approach to the unit.
In some communities, it might be preferable to start with the empathy (#3) project of an attitude survey. This would identify the prevailing knowledge base and
the myths that need to be dispelled. Using this information, you as the teacher can adjust or eliminate sections of the unit as appropriate. The
Facet Chart categorizes the performance assessments and project tasks by type of understanding demonstrated
and indicates suggested teaching and learning activities that support each of the projects or performance tasks to reveal the six different facets of understanding.
The knowledge, skills, and teaching activities are further enumerated in the Learning Experiences and Instruction; reference numbers are added to link specific
activities to their sources. The teaching plan follows the sequence suggested on the Facet Chart. You may choose
to use any or all of these activities to facilitate your students' understanding.
A misconception alert addresses the fear that exposure to any amount of radiation causes death. This attitude may be prevalent in the community and in the classroom;
it should be dispelled early in the unit to lower students' anxieties and to increase students' receptivity to the concepts presented.
This unit is integrated across the curriculum. A look at the unit graphic details some of the content areas where implementation of this curriculum would be appropriate.
Whatever your field of expertise, I encourage you to stretch yourself as a professional educator, to step outside your role as the sole source of information in your classroom,
and to explore this unit along with your students. Middle school students respond particularly well to units of study that apply knowledge and skills that they learn in
different disciplines and that explore areas of authentic concern of the community in which they reside. As indicated in the rationale, this unit meets some of the state
standards in each of these content areas; utilizing this unit will further prepare your students to successfully meet the standards on the state-mandated tests.
I encourage you to continue to teach for understanding. I hope that this unit provides you with a model of unit design that enhances the educational process for you
and for your students.