Role Play Weighs Competing Interests


Amanda Young, Staff Writer

AP Environmental Science classes participated in a coastal management simulation on December 4 and 5.

Science teacher Tren Kauzer said that his goal for the project was for students to understand multiple perspectives regarding issues of preservation and land use. “My hope was that they would start to think like someone who doesn’t think the way they think,” said Kauzer.

In the role play, students reenacted a particular California land management controversy, and almost all of the students were asked to portray real people involved in the issue.

This is the 3rd year that Kauzer has had his AP Environmental Science classes do this simulation. He said that the block schedule was really convenient and that “this was the first year that [they’ve] been able to do the entire project in one day.”

“It worked so much better; it was really nice to have 90 minutes to completely start and finish in the same day,” said Kauzer.

He started doing this project after conversing with Chevron environmental scientists who said that using real world data sets and role-playing are the most advantageous ways to teach and prepare students if they ever want to pursue a career in this field. “When you role play, you can start to think like the other side, which really helps you when you’re trying to navigate a contentious battle or something like that,” said Kauzer.

Students were sorted into 6 positions: fishers, Native American tribe-members, non-governmental organization employees like the Nature Conservancy, as well as government managers and enforcers, scientists, and industry members.

Based on their specific role, students had to research and formulate an opinion regarding which particular ecosystem and what percent of the ecosystem they should preserve. The goal of the simulation was to come to a compromise between all the different groups’ interests.

Junior Mariella Crudele was part of the government group. As such, her group advocated for the marine reserves because they hoped that they would protect biodiversity. “But at the same time, we don’t want the marine reserves to completely cover the coast, because then a lot of fishermen would lose their jobs, and that wouldn’t benefit the economy,” Crudele said.

Crudele said that the project was “a really good way for students to practice real life scenarios that actually pertain to AP Environmental Science. I think it’s really beneficial in that aspect, and also you get to interact with a lot of kids during class, so I like that… I found it really interesting to research what actual environmental scientists and what they do to form marine reserves,” she said.

Junior Dylan Grausz was also a member of the government in the role play. He said that the simulation was “fun” and “important to understand.”

“I thought it was cool to learn how people feel about protecting the oceans,” said Grausz. “A lot of the people want the oceans protected, but a lot of the groups [had other opinions].”

Senior Thibault Gourlin said that the simulation helped him learn more about what happens in the real world. “I never thought it was that difficult to come up with a compromise,” he said.

Gourlin said, “It’s better and easier [than a test] because when I’m studying I’ll just remember what we did.”