From:                              Tim Godcharles

Sent:                               Tuesday, October 09, 2012 11:32 AM

To:                                   Janice Thiel

Subject:                          Form Submission (Critical Thinking Activities & Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs))


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Critical Thinking Activities & Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs)

Thank you for submitting your Critical Thinking Activity/RLO idea. Please forward this message and attach any supplemental files (e.g., Handouts, PowerPoints, etc.) to


Title of Critical Thinking Activity/RLO:

Your Answer:The Sleeping Mountain


Briefly describe or summarize the Activity/RLO:

Your Answer:In this role-playing scenario, students represent townspeople whose lives and livelihoods are endangered by an active volcano that may or may not erupt in the near future. They must debate whether to invest in or to abandon their town. The site outlines the roles and includes a description of the original, real volcano that inspired the scenario, Mammoth Mountain in California, with a list of links. Before the debate, the students must research monitoring volcano activity and write a paper about it.


Subject Area(s) - Select all that apply:

Your Answer:

  • Natural Science
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences


What is(are) the Major Learning Outcome(s) addressed by this Activity/RLO (from course outline)?

Your Answer:The student will learn the types of city government and the problems of urban communities
The basic mechanisms of plate tectonics. The different plate boundary types. What is and the importance of paleomagnetism.


What is(are) the Course Objective(s) addressed by this Activity/RLO (stated in performance terms)?

Your Answer:Examine methods used to monitor volcanoes.
Evaluate the risks of volcanic activity in a fictitious setting
Experience the ways in which volcanoes affect the lives of the people living near them.


Type of Activity/RLO - Select all that apply:

Your Answer:Large Group


Time - How much time does it take to conduct this Activity/RLO?

Your Answer:Multiple Classes


List the materials that are necessary to conduct this Activity/RLO:

Your Answer:Sleeping Mountain Scenario:
Mammouth Mountain Ski Trail Map:
USGS Tree Kill Map:


Instructions - Give detailed step-by-step instructions on how to conduct this Activity/RLO:

Your Answer:Instructions were taken from:

In keeping with the explosive nature of today's topic, we are going to inject a little drama into our discussion, and a little fantasy.

You were born and raised in a little mountain community on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada. This town stayed small because economic opportunities were sparse once the Gold Rush was over. For years, you and your neighbors have scraped along by selling a few Christmas trees in winter and driving logging trucks in summer. However, when Caltrans improved the State highway system a few years ago and old 395 became a much faster 4-lane, the little town suddenly became accessible from the Los Angeles area, at least for a weekend trip. And just as suddenly, all the snow and steep terrain that had been such a nuisance to daily life for years began to look like money: ski money! Some of your neighbors have gone into partnership to finance the construction of ski lifts and renovate some old barns to make instant traditional ski chalets. Others are planning to get rich on the businesses that spring up around a ski resort: ski-wear shops, bars, restaurants, bars, service stations, bars, and souvenir shops. Real estate investors want to build condos. Others are thinking about summer businesses and plan to open a rollerblade rental and a mountain-bike shop. The community is attracting new residents for the first time in decades: merchants, sporting goods dealers, construction workers, retirees, teachers, and artists. The value of your property is going up weekly, with no end in sight. You might even be able to replace the ol' pickup next year, or at least get a new gun-rack!

BUT now a group of Government seismologists and volcanologists has surveyed your area, and they have just made a devastating announcement: Mastodon Mountain, the hub of your proposed ski slopes, is a volcano that shows signs of an imminent eruption!

The announcement shocks the entire community. Reactions vary widely. Opinions form quickly and polarize the denizens. Some say BUILD ANYWAY AND LIVE WITH THE RISK, others say SHUT DOWN COMPLETELY AND PREPARE FOR THE WORST.

State officials have called for a Town Meeting to make an inquiry about the commercial development of the area in view of the geologic hazard. All residents are invited to voice their opinions and recommendations at the Town Meeting. What should be done? Build or not build? Who should pay for all the extra expenses associated with feasibility studies, environmental impact reports, etc?

Format for Discussion
This is a Town Meeting about the situation, moderated by the State official. The official is here to listen to the views of the people, even though it is not quite clear what the official will do about the problem. Rumor has it that the official is very close to Governor Davis, so any action by the State will likely be based on the way the meeting goes.

Students will be assigned to play the role of one of these persons and are expected to effectively contribute to the discussion/debate at the Town Meeting. Each student must be prepared to make an opening statement that’s a minimum of 5 minutes in length.

•The Geologist. A person knowledgeable about the devastating effects of volcanic eruptions, particularly those like Mount Saint Helens, with explosions, hot ash falls, mud flows caused by rapid snow-melts. Make recommendations to mitigate the effects of an eruption.

•The Ski Resort Owner. An investor who is faced with financial ruin if the resort under construction must be abandoned. Make arguments that make the danger sound less threatening. Emphasize potential for prosperity in community.

•The Fire Chief. The person responsible for coordinating all emergency services to the community. What will you need in case of an eruption? More ambulances and fire trucks? More police? More paramedics? A helicopter? And where are you going to get them from? (Who will pay for them?)

•The Big Land Developer. This real estate tycoon has bought land with a potential of making big profits on condo sales. But development may not be possible if the land is rezoned to a red-zone for family dwellings. In any case, new building permits will be more expensive because the city will have to be able to pay for additional emergency services suggested by the Fire Chief.

•The Local Environmentalist. A conservationist and tree-lover who did not want the ski resort in the first place.

•The Insurance Person. This person is the underwriter for all the homeowner's policies and business policies in town, but now the insurance company is in jeopardy if an eruption happens. How high must the rates be increased to cover a possible disaster?

•The Regional Caltrans Director. This transportation planner expects that roads must be widened and additional escape roads will be necessary to accommodate heavy traffic volume in case of emergency evacuation.

•The Unemployed Resident. Oh boy! Jobs! First, things looked good, and now they look bad again.

•The Resident with Five Kids. Parents face not only the threat of a natural disaster that would endanger themselves, their kids, and their house, but also the burden of paying for bills in preparation for eruption, even if it never happens: re-siting schools, roads, hospitals, emergency equipment. Should they leave their hometown? Vote against any new taxes and cross their fingers? Do they believe the geologists anyway? (Geologists cannot predict actual dates and times.)

•The State Official from the Office of Emergency Preparedness. This person is just interested in the safety of the citizens; the cost to individuals or to the community does not concern him or her. The official will lay out steps the State proposes to accomplish, even though it is not clear whether the State will pay for it or merely order the town to do it. The official's priority is for human life, because the measure of any disaster is the number of dead. The only way this official can be fired is by letting a lot of people get killed.

•The Mayor. He or she has to look like a leader, yet there is zero chance of re-election by promoting some action that will cost too much tax money on the one hand or seems deliberately negligent on the other. The town faces potential bonanza and potential doom. What is the Mayor going to recommend to the City Council?

•The Local Congressman. This person is between a rock and a hard place. It is politically impossible to get relief money before a disaster, only after it. She or he has heard both sides of the issue (the few developers as well as the many parents), but must make a decision that represents the best interest of all the residents (voters!). The Congressman has to say something. She/he cannot just sit there like a stuffed penguin.

•The Investigative Reporter from the Local TV Station. The TV journalist is looking for dirty dealings, especially by the big developers and investors who may try to sidestep the legal hassles. Jackpot! Speak up with nasty questions, if you can! This may be your chance to write a hard-hitting story that will get you national attention and maybe five minutes on the Today show!

Reflection Assignment

Reflect on the Town Hall meeting from the perspective of the role you were assigned. Answer the following questions.
1.Summarize, in five sentences or less, your position on the situation prior to the town hall meeting.
2.How do you think you performed during the town hall? Do you believe you were persuasive?
3.If you had it to do over again, what would you like to add or remove from your argument?
4.Who do you think mad the most convincing argument? Why?
5.Did your position change from what it was prior to the town hall? Why or why not?
6.You’re the Governor...What is your plan on how to handle the situation?


List Additional Resources, for example: Web address/URL, Handouts, PowerPoint, etc. Copy/Paste URLs here. Later, when you receive your confirmation message, forward any supplemental files to the QEP Director.

Your Answer:




SPC established as its definition of critical thinking: The active and systemic process of communication, problem solving, evaluation, analysis, synthesis, and reflection, both individually and in community, to foster understanding, support sound decision-making, and guide action.


Which aspect(s) of critical thinking does this Activity/RLO address? - Select all that apply:

Your Answer:

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Evaluation
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Reflection


How will this improve our students’ ability to think critically?

Your Answer:This activity will improve critical thinking skills because it requires students to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate the socio-political and geo-political impact of knowing the mountain that their growing town depends on, is actually a volcano that shows signs of imminent eruption. Assigning students’ roles they may not have chosen for themselves, will foster their abilities to step outside their comfort zones and think about things from alternative perspectives.


Have you consulted the Activity/RLO Guidelines?

Your Answer:Yes




If you have any questions or comments about this form, please contact Janice Thiel at or call (727) 341-3110