The Vinland Map Exercise

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Area: Art, History and Social Studies, Science
Grade Level: High School & Beyond
Topics: Epistemology, knowledge, reasoning, Skepticism
Estimated Time Necessary: One class session or multiple class sessions

Lesson Plan

Learn to be conscious of how we think when our knowledge is limited.
Learn to be conscious of how we think when our knowledge is limited and we have to choose between competing stories, explanations, or theories.

I developed this exercise in a series of Critical Thinking and Philosophy of Science classes. It can raise a huge range of issues about knowledge; testing and confirmation bias; skepticism and how not to be gullible; the relationship between scientific and historical and common sense thinking; the relationship between key concepts like fact, belief, theory, reality, fiction, and truth; how to or whether we can draw a clear line between science and pseudoscience… even questions about what we can learn from facts versus what we can learn from much subtler clues like writing style. I have used this exercise in individual classes — and also had one summer class in which it expanded to consume multiple profitable hours over several days.

The full lesson plan is available as a PDF in the Lesson Attachment area above.

For a similar lesson plan geared toward younger students, see Noises in the Night.

This lesson plan was contributed by: Richard Farr,