Can Leetso and Hozho' Coexist?
Uranium Education for Middle School Students
Overview of Unit
As indicated in the rationale and introduction, the issues surrounding the extraction of uranium from the Colorado Plateau region has left
a legacy of myths, fears, rumors, and denials. Students in these communities need to understand the facts about uranium mining, milling, and
radiation in order to make informed decisions regarding personal and community safety and economics.
Many, if not most, of the affected communities are on tribal lands. A large proportion of these lands are in the Navajo Nation. Therefore,
the questions that are raised are directly related to the concept of hozhˇ, living in beauty and harmony. Traditional tribal elders view the
disturbance of Mother Earth for extraction of resources as an activity that is out of balance with the natural world, and as such it should be
avoided. With high unemployment on the reservation, the economic benefits of mining, milling, and power generation are worthy of consideration.
Two "enduring" understandings are presented in this unit: living in harmony in a nuclear world and the consequences of nuclear resource
extraction. Hopefully, as students gain an understanding of these concepts, fear will be reduced and wise decisions will be made.
To attempt to increase student perspectives on the important concepts, seven essential questions are proposed to guide the inquiry:
- What does
it mean to live in harmony?
- Is Leetso
(uranium) alive or dead in our community?
- Is nuclear
energy necessary in the modern world?
- Is all
all mining be stopped?
- Is mine
reclamation really possible?
- Is it possible
to live in harmony with nature and still mine resources from the
There are no obvious "right" answers to these questions, which are framed to provoke student interest. Students must research, analyze, synthesize,
and evaluate to uncover the important ideas and attitudes about the topic. These are the questions that are being considered in these regional
communities by the elders, the bureaucrats, and the industry representatives. Proposals for mineral extraction continue to surface in the region, as
there are ample resources of uranium still in the ground. As adults, students will need to consider the issues surrounding uranium extraction as
community decision-makers. Now is the time for them to begin to understand the ramifications of their decisions.