Purpose: Students begin a simulation, which continues throughout this module, and practice the first step of the decision making process (define the issue).
1. Students prepare for a simulation that highlights decision making.
Explain to students that they are now going to begin working through the decision making process, as illustrated in their flowcharts. Explain that the activity will continue over the next few lessons.
Divide the class into groups of six or seven. Give each group a manila folder. Have a member of the group write all the members’ names on the folder. Inform students that all group work and notes related to this activity are to be kept in the folders. You will collect them at the end of each session and distribute the folders at the beginning of the next.
Explain the following situation to the groups:
Your group is composed of members of a federal agency in Washington, D.C., that is in charge of running fallout shelters in the far outposts of civilization. Suddenly, World War III breaks out and nuclear bombs begin dropping, destroying places all across the globe. People are heading for whatever fallout shelters are available. You receive a desperate call from one of your stations asking for help.
It seems that 10 people have arrived looking for shelter, but there is only enough space, air, food, and water in the fallout shelter for six people for a period of three months, which is how long they must stay underground before they can safely leave. They realize that if they have to decide among themselves which six should go into the shelter, they are likely to become irrational and begin fighting. So, they have decided to call your department and leave the decision to you. They will abide by your decision.
Explain to students that, as a group, they have to decide which four people will have to be eliminated from the shelter. Impress upon them the following important considerations:
- It is possible that the six people they choose to stay in the shelter might be the only six people left to continue the human race.
- You (the federal agency group) must make the decision—no exceptions.
2. Students begin the simulation by defining the problem.
Explain to students that their responsibility today is to carefully define the problem. Instruct students to take 10 minutes to write a clear definition of the situation, including all the factors they feel are important.
Instruct the groups’ members to brainstorm the most important criteria (including core beliefs and values) to consider when making this decision. Have students include any outcomes the group wants. As a prompt, ask, “What qualities are important: intelligence, creativity, kindness, or other qualities?” Allow students 10 minutes to write their answers.
3. Students discuss their group work.
Have each group share its definition with the class. Ask:
- What difficulties did you encounter when your group wrote its definition of the problem?
- Why is it necessary to have a clear definition of a problem when making a decision?
Lead students to the understanding that having a clear definition of the problem helps them to focus on each specific aspect of the problem and helps ensure that they will not be distracted later by things that aren’t part of the issue.
Have the groups return their materials to their folders. Collect the folders.