A "Role-play" Activity for Teaching about Uranium Mining on the Navajo Nation

Erin Klauk
Montana State University
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This activity uses an Earth system approach and role playing to teach students about uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. Students first use a website to find information for their assigned roles, and then they present information to the class.

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This exercise can be used in an undergraduate environmental geology course or an introductory physical geology course for non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

There are no required skills or conceptual prerequisites for this activity.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity can be used parallel to a unit on natural resources, environmental issues, or economic geology. However, this activity can also be used as a stand alone project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity was designed for students to learn about the impacts of resource development on Native American lands. This is achieved by exploring the cultural heritage(s) of the involved tribe(s), the geology, physiography, climate, biota and hydrology of the land being studied, information about the resource being developed, exploration and development history of the resource, and environmental impacts, human health impacts and political issues from a resource development standpoint.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

As a result of this activity, students develop the skills to address environmental issues and come to realize that they can play a role in such issues.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills the students may gain from this activity are making oral presentations to their class and working in groups.

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity uses an assortment of digital resources relevant to exploring resource development on Native American lands. The activity is based on a website that uses an Earth System approach to help students understand how Native American lands have been impacted by resource development. In the role-playing exercise, students are assigned one of several roles, including consulting geologists, the mining industry, tribal elders and public health officials. Each student uses the web-based learning materials to research the issue from the perspective of their role. This type of exercise could also be used as a debate by dividing a class into groups that play the roles of the Navajo people and the Federal Government.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students can be evaluated based on guided activity worksheets (linked below), as well as from their participation in group oral presentations.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs