Why Use Individual Role-Playing Exercises?
Even if students are not excited by the assigned topic, they should be able to understand why it is important and to whom it is important.
Augmenting Traditional Curricula
As with any role-playing exercise, the most important task is to understand the topic from new perspective.
Among the pressing questions for any science class is: What do people need to know about the environment in order to live there or about resources in order to work with them? Above all, what do people need to know about each other?
For example: someone moving to Tacoma, Washington, needs to know about the risk of Mount Rainier erupting and destroying their home, possibly killing their family. So they have to find out about the nature of the hazard(s) posed by Mount Rainier, the geographic extent, the likelihood of eruption according to geologic monitors, etc. Do they want to work and live in Tacoma at all? Are some parts of the city that are safer than others?
Most of the writing and presenting projects the student will do after graduation will not be done from an objective viewpoint. However, an academic role-playing exercise can emphasize that scholarly journal and magazine articles are vital for researching policy and persuasive writing. For controversial topics, materials ordinarily considered biased by scientists, such as editorials, are also valuable for research, as they are in the real world.
On the average, students need to know how to write a good letter more than they need to know the half-lives of uranium and lead isotopes, but a lesson that has a student writing a letter to the editor of his hometown paper about the problem of nuclear waste can teach both in context.
Public speaking is an important skill in countries where most citizens have free speech and important issues to address. Students need to be able to defend their opinions in order to make good use of their rights.
Given a particular problem, students should be able to decide which topics to research in pursuit of a solution, because this is expected in all but menial jobs. The ability to ask the right questions and then to independently research them is rarely expected in undergraduates in introductory courses, but if this is the last science class they are likely to take, make it count!