Role-Playing Game Teaches Students about Plastics in Chemical & Engineering News
September 16, 2013 - Philadelphia, PA
It’s a Friday evening in late May. The students from Jeremy Wolf’s Chemistry II class are presenting a community event at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) about their experience in the role-playing game Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics. The students took the game seriously, but they had some fun with it, too. Polly Ethylene, Cornelia Corniscool, Molly Kule—these are just a few of the evocative names the students from Palisades High School in Kintnersville, Pa., adopted for their characters.
The Case of Plastics is a role-playing game developed by CHF as the first module in its Conflicts in Chemistry education program. The goal of the program is to help students draw connections between what they learn in chemistry classes and what they experience in their own lives.
“We want to put chemistry in a social context,” says Deborah Cook, an education consultant who served as the project manager. Michael Mackintosh, the researcher for the program, adds that an important part of the concept was “focusing on issues that don’t have clearly defined right and wrong answers.”
Here is the game’s scenario: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to establish new regulations that require plastics manufacturers to take responsibility for the full life cycle of their products. The agency is holding a public hearing about the proposed regulations. The students are assigned roles in one of six groups—health, industry, invention, sustainability, waste, and regulators—and they have to approach the problem from the perspective of their character. The groups have “victory objectives” of what they would like to see (or not see) in the final regulation.
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