Conflicts in Chemistry
Students debate the issues in the opening round of The Case of Plastics. Photo by Conrad Erb.
Plastics are essential to life as we know it. Inexpensive and versatile, they have raised living standards, improved health and sanitation, and reduced demand on scarce natural resources. Yet they contribute to environmental degradation and potentially pose a risk to human health, causing many to question our current approach to plastics.
The Case of Plastics is a role-playing game that considers the positive, negative, and conflicting perspectives of plastics through a debate of the issues. Students adopt the roles of characters representing positions on all sides of the plastics debate, from activists to manufacturers, and then debate ways that the production, use, and disposal of plastics should or should not be regulated.
The game teaches students to understand multiple perspectives on plastics and to recognize the complex issues facing today’s policy makers. The project also emphasizes the role of history in the formation of policy. By understanding the history of plastics, the changes brought about by plastics, and the historical context for their characters’ positions, students are better able to engage in the contemporary debate.
The Case of Plastics has been developed as a role-playing game for implementation in high-school chemistry classrooms. However, the game can also be implemented in college settings, in high-school social studies classes, and in cross-disciplinary projects or clubs.
The Case of Plastics website serves as the main portal for students to access everything they need to play the game. Teachers desiring to play this game with their students should complete the contact form to request teachers’ materials not available on the website.
Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics has been supported by Heritage Philadelphia, a program of The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.
Support for Conflicts in Chemistry has also been provided by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Special Grant Program in the Chemical Sciences.
For more information about The Case of Plastics, or if you are interested in playing the game with your students, please contact us.
Plastics have dramatically changed the way we live, but some people question the merits of those changes. Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics is a pilot project that engages high-school students in this lively debate.