Wise, A., Schank, P., Stanford, T., & Horsma, G. (2009). The science behind nanosunscreens: Learning about nanoparticulate ingredients used to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The Science Teacher, 76(6).
What are ‘nano’ ingredients, and how can you tell if your sunscreen has them?” “Why do we need nanosunscreens?” “If a bottle of a well-known sunscreen brand claims that it protects against UVB and UVA rays, should I believe it?” These are just a few of the questions that our “Clear Sunscreen” nanoscience unit has students asking. Students are excited to learn about science that is applicable to their daily lives and because they find the topic interesting, they are motivated to figure out the complex concepts involved.
In this article, we provide a brief overview of the emerging field of nanoscience and why it is an important area for education. We then explain the science behind the new nanoparticulate sunscreens, describe the different elements of the unit, and reflect on some of the opportunities and challenges of teaching nanoscience at the high school level.