A "Jigsaw" Activity
As the price of oil exceeds $70/barrel, nuclear energy is once again becoming a viable energy alternative. One of the major domestic sources of uranium in the United States is found in the southwest, on the lands of the Navajo Nation. More than fifteen thousand people have mined uranium or worked in ore processing mills in the Southwest since the 1940's, and some 13 million tons of uranium ore was mined while the mines were in operation ([Ali, 2003] ).
What are the benefits from uranium mining on these lands? Who benefits from uranium mining on these lands? What are the impacts (e.g. health, economic) on the Navajo 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 the "jigsaw" technique to explore many dimensions of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. Students will be divided into 4 groups. Each group will take 45 minutes to explore assigned parts of the website. Members of each group will become "experts" on your assigned topics. Then, the groups will disperse and reassemble into new groups that will include one member from each of the former groups. For the next 25 minutes of the class, each of the "experts" will provide a brief summary of the essential information about the topics they were assigned to their new group. This summary 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 uranium mining on the Navajo Nation addressing the bold questions above.
Group 1:Explore the geology, physiography, and hydrology of the Navajo 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:Explore the climate, biota, and culture heritage of the Navajo Nation. Who lives in this fragile ecosystem–both plants and animals, and Native people.
Group 3:Explore the types of uranium deposits, and the exploration and development history of this area.
Group 4:Explore the environmental and health, and related policy issues related to uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.
For further information about teaching with the jigsaw technique see: Barbara Tewksbury, 1995, Specific Strategies for Using the Jigsaw Technique for Working in Groups in Non-Lecture-Based Courses, Journal of Geological Education v 43, p 322-326 [Tewksbury, 1995] .