Home Sweet Home: A Role Playing Exercise

illustration of homeless animals picketing


Excerpted from today's
issue of the Daily Times:

"A large group of wetland animals marched this morning on City Hall demanding to be heard... Their current legal representation is being handled by the prestigious law firm of Boyd, Duhe, Conham and Stihl. The animals are seeking restitution from the federal, state and local governments for the unpardonable crime of rendering them homeless. They claim that, over the past 40 years, urban development has encroached upon their habitat to the extent that they no longer have a suitable place to live. Herons, egrets, nutria and alligators are currently residing along suburban canals seeking what little refuge and sustenance are available. Other residents have been forced to move from their ancestral homes and relocate or die of exposure to the elements."

"A trial date has been set for next Wednesday to evaluate the plaintiffs' demands and will be presided over by the honorable Judge N. St.Cyr, fifth circuit court. The defense counsel maintains that these animals are complaining out of turn, that they are lazy, good-for-nothing bums who would rather loaf about near canals than work to earn a decent living. The district attorney's office, who is handling the defense, also contends that the needs of humans take precedence over those of mere 'swamp animals' and therefore the urbanization process is one of progress, not one of retrogression."


(The educator should tailor the exercise to apply to the students' home parish)

Note: This exercise can be performed in multiple ways. The teacher can provide students with the background materials (life history traits) on each animal and treat the exercise as a simple role-playing game [See Salovely Swamp from "Wetland Blues: A Video Guidebook for Teachers"]. The teacher can provide the reference materials necessary for the students to locate the facts for themselves during a class period devoted to research, or the fact-gathering can be assigned as a homework assignment.

  1. Read the "newspaper article," and write the following problem statement on the board.

    Problem Statement:
    Thousands of animals have been made homeless by the rapid development of urban areas which take over wetland habitat.

  2. Randomly assign roles to the students to play in the courtroom drama:
    • Judge (1)
    • Defense Attorneys, Prosecuting Attorneys
    • Jury (12)
    • Expert Witnesses (one for each type of animal)
    • Detectives who research for the attorneys
    • The remaining students can represent townspeople divided to represent pro and con viewpoints.

  3. Make copies of and distribute Data Sheet 1 and Data Sheet 2 to students. These are to be used as tools for gathering information on the life history traits of wetland animals as well as information sheets for the attorneys to use during the ensuing trial.

  4. Allow students to begin an independent fact-gathering and strategy planning period. Students should keep the role they are laying in mind, and attempt to tailor their responses and strategies to their particular role.

  5. Arrange classroom to represent a courtroom: single chair up front for the judge, twelve chairs to one side for the jury, etc.

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