With our museum partner, the Science History Institute, and with support from Roy Eddleman, CSSM researchers helped to develop: Science Matters: The Case of Rare Earth Elements. The Case of Rare Earth Elements is a role-playing game designed for a classroom setting. This role-playing game was designed to enhance the classroom experience for high school chemistry students and teachers. Find it here (link).

Rare earth elements are all around us. They are part of the foundation on which our modern society is built. They power our phones, our cars, and scores of other technologies. Yet the mining and distribution of these elements have created challenges—environmental pollution, geopolitical monopolies, and future sustainability—that must be addressed.

In the game, students are invited to participate in an international Sustainability Summit convened to develop guidelines for a rare earth elements ‘Sustainability Seal.’ During this Summit they assume a role associated with the rare earths industry and explore the many benefits and challenges surrounding the use of, and our dependency on, rare earth elements. In groups, they debate the positive and negative viewpoints of important environmental issues on rare earth elements and propose additions and changes to the Sustainability Seal guidelines. The goal of the Sustainability Seal is to define practical and manageable criteria to address the issues associated with rare earth element production and trade while also accounting for the vital role these elements play in modern-day society. They ultimately choose the set of guidelines that best addresses the underlying issues within the rare earth elements industry.

Photo by JOKER/Alexander Stein/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The games can also be implemented in social studies classes, in college settings, and in cross-disciplinary projects or clubs.