Pinnacle Educational Research & Development

(ISSN: 2360-9494)

May 2015, Vol. 3 (4).

© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research Article


What if Fossils Are Discovered On The Planet Mars? A Learning Activity for Promoting Critical Thinking and STEM Education

Abour H. Cherif, Ph.D.1, Gerald Adams, Ph.D.2, Jeremy Dunning, Ph.D.3

1National Associate Dean,
Math, Science, and CLS,
University Academic Affairs,
DeVry University,
3005 Highland Parkway, Downers Grove, IL 60515-5799, U.S.A.

2Associate Professor of Geology,
Science and Mathematics Department,
Columbia College Chicago,
600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605, U.S.A.

3Dean Emeritus,
Indiana University,
Bloomington IN 47401, U.S.A.
Founding Partner, Arjuna Learning Designs

Accepted 11 April, 2014; Available Online 1 May, 2015.


This paper outlines a role-playing scenario to help students build a better understanding of scientific concepts and principles. In this scenario, students are part of the scientific, economic, political, philosophical, religious, social, and media communities. These communities are faced with challenges about the new fossil discoveries, bacteria and bone fragments, as well as plant parts found on the planet Mars. In this activity, students will assume roles as the representatives of these communities. After doing research, they will develop a plan and strategy for the members to present how their respective communities would react to the newly discovered fossils on Mars. To accomplish this goal, students will work together to collect information and acquire the knowledge that will help to put them in the shoes of the members of their prospective communities. They will develop informative and realistic perspectives that can be presented on behalf of the given communities. They also will learn to take on the roles of others and improve their social skills and academic performance. By actively engaging in this activity, students learn and reinforce their understanding of various concepts in science and how science interacts with various aspects of human endeavors. But most of all, we aim to invoke an interest in learning about the fossils and fossil formation, planet Mars, and the concept of life and space exploration and in turn, excite students to learn about issues that they are likely to find themselves apart of in debate. Thus, this scenario encourages students to become informed citizens, who hopefully are capable to see multiple paths to an answer for a given problem in highly competitive global world.

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