Explore Teaching Examples | Provide Feedback

Jurassic Park Debate

Exercise by Constance M. Soja and Deborah Huerta - Starting Point page by R. Teed (SERC)
Author Profile
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: August 10, 2006


This role-playing exercise casts students as scientific specialists, assigned to a group either supporting or opposing the cloning of dinosaurs. There are 4-6 specialists (or groups of specialists): geneticists, ecologists, etc., on each side. Each side researches for a couple of weeks and presents its argument in class (usually a single class period for each side), and other students can ask the specialists questions. Each student also turns in two pages summarizing his/her arguments as a specialist the day of the presentation. The material provided by the professor for research includes information about cloning technology and about dinosaurs.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

This exercise brings together the past (dinosaurs) and the future (cloning). Students must consider:

Pelorosaurus commutes to work in this artist
  • The behavior, physiology, and ecology of dinosaurs
  • Cloning technology
  • Ethical ramifications of the whole project

This project will help students develop important skills:

  • Research and writing
  • Public speaking and argumentation
  • Working in groups

Context for Use

This project would be great for an Age of the Dinosaurs class. It could also be used in a biotechnology or science ethics class, among others.

Teaching Materials

The student will be representing scientists on the "for" or "against" side of a debate on whether or not to clone dinosaurs.

There should be about four to six basic roles (depending on class size), with representatives for both sides.

  • Essential roles include geneticists, paleontologists, and ecologists.
  • Other roles could include physiologists, environmental scientists (focused on modern environmental problems) and ecologists can be split into modern ecologists and paleoecologists.
  • In a small class, you can have one for each side. In a large class, have students share roles and work in groups to research their positions.
  • Have the students choose their roles randomly from a hat.

Send the students to do some initial research in the first week of the project.

  • The authors chose to collect useful resources and put them on reserve or on a web page for students.

The students representing each side should meet and coordinate their arguments

The debate itself consists of each student group (all of the people representing one side in a small class or all of the people playing one role in a large class) getting up and presenting their material. Every role gets about five minutes and other students get to ask specialists questions.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Two weeks of preparation and a class period (1 hour) for presentations should be sufficient.


There are two graded components for this project:
  • An individual 2-page summary of the character's main arguments, due the day of the presentation
  • The presentation given by the group

References and Resources

This exercise is based on Soja and Huerta, 2001 .