The Vinland Map Exercise
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.