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An Activity to Introduce the Geoscience Perspective

Karen Havholm (University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire)
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: August 30, 2006 | Reviewed: November 25, 2019


This exercise is intended to connect students to geology and to remind them of the diverse ways in which people, including geoscientists, relate to rocks. On the first day of class, sort the students into groups and give each one a different rock specimen and a different role to examine it from. Possible roles include a sculptor considering the rock as material to work with, a landowner wanting to put in a well on an estate underlain by that rock type, and a preacher who will use the rock as part of a sermon. The groups study the rock, and then prepare a relevant list of observations and questions. Finally, the students need to summarize the perspectives presented and each writes a one-minute paper saying what they have learned and to evaluate the activity.

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Learning Goals

This exercise enables students to:
  • Relate a strange new situation (geology class) to the familiar context of human life.
  • Work in groups to prepare for a public presentation of their findings
  • Finding patterns in a diverse data set
  • Summarize what they have learned in writing.

Context for Use

This activity is for the first day of an introductory geoscience class and will take most of that class period. It can be used in a large class; the instructor has used it in a class of 75 students. Multiple groups can be given the same role.

Teaching Materials

For each group, the instructor will need:
  • A rock sample (a different type for each group?) big enough for the students to handle and relate to.
  • A sheet of paper with the role and the particular interest of that person in the rock

Teaching Notes and Tips

Unlike most role-playing exercises, this one requires no prior preparation by the students.


Both the presentation and the one-minute papers will allow an informal assessment of how the students are settling in to the class.

References and Resources

This exercise is described in Havholm, 1998 .