Pedagogy in Action > Library > Role Playing > Role-Playing Scenarios > Yellowstone Fires

Yellowstone Fires

Teaching Materials by the Exploring the Environment (more info) Team for NASA's Classroom of the Future - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC).
Author Profile
This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

Emphasizing an integrated approach to environmental earth science through problem-based learning, the module asks students to assume the role of environmental biologist, and help several government agencies resolve the debate surrounding "let it burn" policies in national parks. The government agencies would like to know whether or not to allow naturally occurring fires in Yellowstone National Park to burn to their natural conclusion. The agencies are particularly interested in student recommendations based on an Earth System Science (ESS) analysis of a fire's impact on the air, land, water, and living things. Many of the pages within the site provide hyperlinked background resources to investigate wildland fire issues in more detail. A glossary, references, related links, and a general description of the problem-based learning model compliment the site.

Learning Goals

Students will:

Context for Use

This was actually written for a graduate course for teachers, but can be used at many levels. As it is student-centered, much of the work can be done out of class, but it will take several days.

Description and Teaching Materials

The Yellowstone Fires (more info) site includes good starter references for the students and links to more. Students and teachers both will need to carefully examine the Problem-Based Learning Method. Concept Mapping (more info) will also prove useful. Access to Internet-capable computers will be essential for the students while they do research.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Problem statements are best handled by teams of students who define the research plan together and then split up to have different students research different elements of the problem (assigned roles such as geologist, biologist, hydrologist and atmospheric scientist can help here). The instructor needs to be very clear just how thorough the students should be and needs to examine the students' research plan before they commit time to the research.

Assessment

Very explicit directions for writing a problem statement are given and this can be developed into a written or presented assignment. The Exploring the Environment Team (working as the ESSEA team) has also written rubrics for Earth System Science Projects for in-service teachers using PBL.

References and Resources

The Modules and Activities link takes the user to a page with links to this and sixteen similar problem-based-learning activities for a variety of grade levels. dealing with topics including the Everglades, the Ozone Hole, and a manned mission to Mars.

PBS has nice virtual tour of the spectacular geological features of Yellowstone Park with a role-playing exercise at The Living Edens: Virtual Yellowstone Tour

See more Role-Playing Scenarios »