A "Role Play" Activity

This page was written by Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.


Methane (natural gas), while frequently developed with petroleum, also occurs in association with coal. Coalbed methane accounts for about 7.5 percent of U.S. natural gas production. Recent U.S. estimates (Rice, 1997) indicate more than 700 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of coalbed methane gas in place, with over 100 TCF economically recoverable--a five-year supply at present rates of consumption (Coalbed Methane Activities in the Energy Resources Program (more info) ).

What are the benefits from coalbed methane development on these lands? Who benefits from coalbed methane development on these lands? What are the impacts (e.g. health, economic) on the Crow peoples and the local environment?

To explore these issues, use these comprehensive webpages that provide essential information about numerous topics that address these questions.


We will use a "role-play" approach to explore many dimensions of gold mining on the Crow Nation. Students will be divided into 4 groups representing 1) consulting geologists, 2) the mining industry, 3) tribal elders, and 4) public health officials/Environmental Protection Agency. Each group will take about 40 minutes to find information on the website pertaining to their assigned roles. In the next 10 minutes, each group will decide on the essential evidence that informs your point of view (at least 5 key points) making sure to address the above questions. Next, each group will have 5 minutes to report out this information to the class during the 'town meeting'. This report out is to include key points about what is particularly interesting and/or important about these issues. We will end the class period with a general discussion about the overall issue of coalbed methane development on the Crow Nation addressing the bold questions above.

Group 1:

Consulting Geologists: Be sure to explore the geology, physiography, and hydrology of the Crow Nation. What is the general geologic setting, what rock units, structures and landforms are present? What issues involve the quality and quantity of water resources?

Group 2:

Mining Industry: Be sure to explore the information about coalbed methane development, and the exploration and development history of this area. Describe the deposits present, how will you develop these deposits (mining and processing), how will the mining companies interact with the Crow tribe, what are the benefits (jobs, profits, tax base, etc.)?

Group 3:

Tribal Elders: Be sure to explore the cultural heritage of the Crow Nation, and the environmental and health impacts from coalbed methane development. You are responsible for the well-being of your people. What impacts were experienced from the development of coalbed methane? Looking to the future, what impacts or benefits might you expect? How will you balance potential jobs, revenues against environmental and health impacts?

Group 4:

Public Health Officials/Environmental Protection Agency: Be sure to explore the environmental and health impacts, and polices on the Crow Nation. Describe the the potential and current impacts on the people, air, water, biota and land. What about the policies on these lands?

Each group should start their investigation with the recommended pages above, but feel free to explore the entire case study.

For further information about teaching with the Role Playing Technique, see the Starting Point collection.