Remember carbon-14 dating cannot be used to date most fossils.
For more information on the restrictions on carbon-14 use in fossil dating see the carbon-14 background information page. Explain that each student will represent one carbon-14 atom in the artifact.
Make sure to be clear that the carbon-14 atoms in this artifact represent only a small percentage of all the atoms that compose it. If the penny is heads the student decays to carbon-12 and must sit down.
Remind students that the majority of the artifact will be made up of carbon-12 or other atoms. If the penny comes up tails the student remains undecayed and may remain standing.
You may wish to bring in an artifact to show or a picture of the artifact you want your class to image to be.
Your students may be familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls, a famous artifact dated using carbon-14 dating.
However, students will play the part of carbon-14 because those are the atoms you wish to observe when measuring radioactive decay.3. Each round of flipping the coin will be called a trial.
This activity seeks to teach students the concept of half-life and radioisotope decay.
Half-life is a mathematical concept that can be difficult for students to visualize and interact with.
This activity seeks to illustrate the concept of half-life in a way that students can understand, while providing an opportunity for students to practice their graphing and computational skills.
Students would then be assigned to determine which element they had based on the decay plot they recieved.
Note that the teacher should check student plots before redistributing them to assure that they are readable and reflect the half-life the student originally assigned.