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Ideas for Resources: Geology Lab Manual

Teaching materials by J. Donald Rimstidt and James R. Craig - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC).
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: August 30, 2006


This site contains a partially-fleshed-out list of questions and situations dealing with water, minerals, and public policy intended to be incorporated into role-playing activities. It was intended for a lab manual to accompany a course on resource geology or environmental geology. Its message is that access to geological resources depends upon a complex interplay between economic, political, legal, environmental, and geological factors. The suggested exercises require students to gather at least some of the data needed to play their roles.

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Learning Goals

These exercises are intended to enable students to:
  • See geology as relevant to them and to their lives because of its importance to business, history, science, engineering, political science, urban planning, and architecture.
  • Gather and evaluate geologic data.
  • Communicate why the data gathered are relevant to the question that they are answering.

Context for Use

This page lists ideas and suggestions for role-playing exercises which make a good starting point for an instructor ready to develop his or her own scenarios. There is a broad range of geoscience questions and ideas here, and the most developed ideas show ways to integrate lab/field work with role-playing exercises. They can easily evolve into studies of local issues. The kinds of exercises described here can develop into good out-of-class projects, some as problem sets, others as papers, some coming back to the classroom in presentations or debates.

Teaching Materials

The Ideas for Resources: Geology Manual (more info) page has the teaching materials (list of questions and topics).

How to Teach Using Role-Playing within this module offers step-by-step advice on building and running a role-playing exercise. You may want to start by focusing the problems: building a specific case and characters using real-world, often local, examples. If you have no good local example, or more information is needed, the Internet may prove useful. A number of the exercises involve the students working out a budget, whether of water, money, etc. and this will require you to give them specific numbers to work with.

Teaching Notes and Tips

For example: the "Drying Out the Ducks" exercise has two proposed problems: creating a water budget for a pond and determining the fairness of state water laws. For the overall scenario, you should firstly give the pond a name and figure out who the students are role-playing and why they care about the pond. You'll want to build a hypothetical water budget of your own, possibly using local climate data, which is available through the GLOBE (more info) database, and decide how much water BBC is taking from the pond. You can then design a water-budget problem set giving the student the data or advice on how to find it and having them construct a water budget and calculating the deficit caused by the BBC. All kinds of local water data for the US can be had through the USGS Water Database (more info) . The next step is to send them to look up whether the BBC's use of the pond is illegal in that state. You can assign a 1-page paper stating whether or not the BBC was going to get away with their water-hogging and why. Again, giving the students guidelines to look up laws and relevant court cases would make the task easier for them.


These projects are intended to culminate in some sort of final report, whether it be in the form of a problem set answer, a paper, or a presentation. The specifics are left to the instructor.

References and Resources

The breadth of the topics at the site and the variety of possible approaches that could be taken by the instructor mean that specific outside references will vary from case to case. The DLESE search engine is a good place to start looking for appropriate ones.