“Energy and climate change: Students debate on the energy supply of a rural district”
Role game

Developed in the context of the SETAC project – Science Education as Tool for Active Citizenship – funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union.

Game description and aims

This role game has been devised to encourage students’ active involvement in inquiry and debate and a responsible attitude in the context of a scenario regarding the Energy supply of an imaginary German district. The game combines physics, chemistry and biology contents relating to the Energy sypply from diverse sources.

The role-game approach aims to motivate students to address such issues following data research using the internet, museums, books, interviews etc. Students take the roles of specific stakeholders of the community becoming this way more aware of the decision processes involved in cases like this, processes which very often have similar aspects with real society or everyday life.

This game is one of the education activities that have been developed by the SETAC partners. This one in particolar was devised by the German partners – the Deutsches Museum and TUM – therefore it presents a German scenario. However, given the interest of the game as well as the strong alignment with the project objectives, all materials have been translated in English in order to allow for other practicioners to adapt them and use them in their own context.


The project is thought for high school students (13 – 17 years old).


The game has a flexible structure. It can be played by:

  • Only one class involved in work for the realisation of the comunity conference.
  • More than one classes of the same school.
  • Classes from different schools.

The game aims to involve students – in the role of the Stürmlingen citizens – in a debate on the Energy issues of the Energetingen district. In order to strengthen the involvement of students in this process and to help them understand the problem in depth, it is recommended that they work on Energy consumption. Such experience could be built using one of the tools for calculating the CO2.

For their work, the students would observe their own Energy consumption for a week using the CO2 calculator in order to understand how much do they release in the atmosphere with the consumption undertaken. This would bring to the question: “where does the Energy we use come from?”, “how is Energy transported?” Students could elaborate answers to these questions during class activities and research which are integrated with the curriculum teaching.

On the basis of their work, the role game would then be constructed. It is presented by the teacher and initiates with the letter by the district President who invites all district citizens to a conference. The meeting of all the districts should however be preceded by city conferences, during which citizens are called to discuss advantages and disadvantagies of those Energy sources that appear as the most suitable for the geological conditions of their own territory.

Each class that participates in the game should represent one city. In our case, the material available on-line related to the city of Stürmlingen and to the wind power Energy. However, drawing on this material, the teacher can prepare a similar scenario about a different comunity or Energy source and involve other classes or even schools.
In the case of Stürmlingen, the class forms groups of 3-4 students each, who take up and prepare on a role (shared between them). The acting of each role is prepared following the profile descriptions available.

The students, eventually with the help of teachers, reflect on the issues that emerge regarding the Energy supply by using the identified source, and they try to evaluate situations and come up with a position. In this phase, a visit to a museum can contribute important data which enrich the research and the discussion. Results of the preparation can be presented as posters or ppt slides.

The final step of the work is the comunity conference. For this, a representative of each role sits at the discussion table, while the other group members take a seat in the second row. Representatives of the same role can change during the conference, so that more students have the opportunity to partecipate. Students in the role of journalists take notes. During the conference, stakeholders exchange views and present the advantages and disadvantages of the choice for the Energy source.

In this discussion, students should be able to understand if information is missing, if therefore are able or not to support their perspective as well as to contradict their opponents. The comunity conference (as the district conference too – see below) intends to be a milestone through which students become aware of their own knowledge and preparation on the topic. It should lead to further research as well as to development of skills for a more responsible participation.

The district conference

If the teacher(s) choose to work with more than one class/city/Energy source, the district conference is certainly an important moment. On the basis of the city conference experience, the students which have been able to stand better in terms of reasoning are chosen to represent their roles in the district conference.
For the latter, all the classes that have taken part in the preliminary work should be present. Each class sends a representative which supports a specific Energy source, one who is against that and one in the role of environment expert. Each representative has the task to convince the other cities to adopt the Energy source as the source for the entire district. Environmental experts should prepare a presentation that emphasises the ecological consequences of the different technologies linked to the Energy source.

After the declarations of these three representatives, the public (that is, the rest of the students) can ask questions. Declarations serve to give information to the other classes-cities regarding the work done on the specific Energy sources.

The declarations of all cities are followed by group discussions among representatives. Groups of 10 people should be organised, each at a different table. The posts of each representative is marked by the city logo and each table should have a representative of each city. The moderator launches and monitors the discussion. Each table should arrive to conclusions. Every 20 minutes, students change tables in order to start new discussions.

After three rounds, there is the voting. Participants get out of their roles (their take their badge off) and receive 6 stickers. They should put those on the posters prepared for each Energy sourse in order to indicate which one they think satisfies the needs for Energy supply of the district. At the end, the results of the voting are announced and discussed.

Dopo l'annuncio del risultato della votazione segue una breve fase di riflessione, durante la quale gli studenti esprimono le loro opinioni su varie questioni del progetto eletto, e sull'adozione di questo da parte del presidente del distretto.

Students participating in the district conference should maintain the roles they chose for the comunity conference. The teacher should take the role of the president of the district in order to make an introduction, follone by the 6 presentations, one for each Energy source, of 20 minutes. These presentations are structured as follows:

  1. 5 minutes of presentation of the representative of the city who promotes the chosen Energy source
  2. 5 min by the technical expert who gives specific details on the subject
  3. 5 min by the environmental association which focuses on the ecological dimension
  4. 5 min for questions by the public.

Materials to download

Download all. (.zip 10.3Mb)

For more information and suggestions regarding how to manage debates, consult also: The moderator guide (.pdf 3.54Mb).