Educational Research & Development

(ISSN: 2360-9494)

November 2014, Vol. 2 (6).

© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research Article


The Rare Earth Elements (Lanthanides) and Their Significant Roles in Society: Role-playing Learning Activity for STEM Education

Abour H. Cherif, Ph.D.1*, Gerald Adams, Ph.D.2 , Kellie Donoghue, M.S.3,

Jeremy Dunning, Ph.D.4, David Overbye, Ph.D.5 & Michele Hoffman, M.S.6

National Associate Dean,
DeVry University Home Office,
3005 Highland Parkway, Downers Grove, IL 60515, U.S.A.
2Professor of Geology & Environmental Science
Science and Math Department
Columbia College Chicago,
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL, 60605, U.S.A.
3Ph.D Candidate
Department of Geosciences,
Indiana University, Bloomington IN, 47401, U.S.A.
4Professor of Geology and Earth Science,
Department of Geosciences,
Indiana University, Bloomington IN, 47401, U.S.A.
5Dean of Academic Affairs,
Department of Academic Affairs,
Realtor University,
430 North Michigan Avenue . Chicago Illinois, USA, 60611.
6Professor of Marine & Environmental Science,
Columbia College Chicago,
Chicago Illinois, USA.

Accepted 27 October, 2014; Available Online 6 November, 2014.


In this paper, we describe a role-playing learning activity in which groups of students work together to develop and present convincing arguments to support or oppose a government plan to promote the mining of lanthanides (rare earth elements) in the USA by giving financial incentives to the mining companies and easing the regulations and environmental restrictions for mining these elements. Students research the rare earth elements, and the short-term and the long-term effects of mining them in the USA on the economy, scientific and technological advances, the environment and the overall well-being of society. This is an issue that will likely be theirs to solve as the next generation of scientists, researchers, industry and business leaders, politicians and policy makers and informed citizens. Students additionally benefit by working in teams, presenting their own research and opinions, and learning to take on the roles of others, thus improving their social skills and academic performance. We include rubrics for assessment of the activity and for individual students' degree of involvement, and we provide suggested questions and research topics for both pre-activity and follow-up use.

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