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The Climate Crisis Trial: A Role Play on the Roots of Global Warming

Bill Bigelow, Zinn Education Project

Students will learn and research who is culpable in climate change by participating in a role-playing trial. Students represent different groups (i.e. US government, consumers, oil and coal industry) and must present a case. Students can also act as a jury, and the teacher will be the prosecutor.

This learning activity takes three to four 45min class periods

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Students will have to do their own research to prepare for this role-playing game. They may need 1-2 class periods to properly research and set up roles.
  • If the teacher has not run a role play trial, he or she may want to think about how to ensure student participation and cooperation, engage all students in the activity, and account for diverse learners. Assigning roles and alternative activities might be necessary for some students.
  • Including the suggested writing assignment could emphasize the rigor of the activity for all students.
  • A possible extension could be to have students find supporting sources to back up the data given.

About the Science

  • Students will consider who and/or what is to blame for the climate crisis.
  • Students will recognize the shared responsibility for the climate crisis and potentially acknowledge the importance of restorative justice: repairing the harm done is more important than punishment.
  • The data is provided for students in the indictments.
  • The data is understandable and engaging, yet teachers may have to spend time finding specific sources, or students could spend time researching sources.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a role-play trial and writing assignment.
  • This activity would be best at the end of a unit on climate change. Students need a complete background of the science of climate change before completing this activity.
  • Reading skills, writing skills, potentially public speaking skills, and knowledge of economics and government are recommended prerequisites.
  • The lesson is well organized for teacher implementation.
  • The teacher can read through the lesson plan to gain a sequence of activities and lesson materials.
  • The teacher's guide is engaging and motivating, as it breaks down the fastest way to split all students into groups.
  • The teacher may want to assign or encourage roles for diverse learners and/or alternate activities or ways of participating in the trial.
  • The activity will positively engage students due to the trial/competitive platform.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Teachers may want to put together climate change resources ahead of time for the students to research and develop roles before the trial.
Entered the Collection: March 2023 Last Reviewed: July 2022

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