Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Habitats and Communities Game

I know science week was last week...but I am not teaching my own science this year and really didn't have anything to contribute UNTIL I went on a field trip with my class yesterday. We went to an outdoor education centre run by my school board as part of my teaching partner's Science program. The kids has a great time being outside, constructing a grouse shelter, feeding chickadees, and petting a snake (GROSS!). My favourite part was the game we played at the end of the day.... Squirrel Wars!!

The basic premise is that the students become squirrels. In our case they were divided into 2 different types of squirrels- Red Squirrels and Grey/Black Squirrels. After a short lesson about the behavioural adaptations of the two squirrels we headed out to the woods to play. Here's how it all worked...

Red Squirrels- These squirrels are small, feisty and aggressive. They hide all their nuts in one place and will fight any animal that comes near their stash. The students in this group were given 12 beans (no nuts of course! allergies!!) and instructed to hide all their beans in one spot in the woods.

Grey/Black Squirrels- These squirrels are bigger and more laid back. They hide their nuts in multiple places and don't get too upset when one stash is stolen by another animal. These students were instructed to hid their beans in many different places in the woods.

So once the students had hidden their beans they returned back to home base. The guide talked a little about how the squirrels have to fight to survive the winter by storing and finding their food. In January when it's just starting to get cold here in Ontario they are still pretty strong so the students needed to go back out into the woods and find three of their beans. They were given a time limit and anyone that didn't return was considered "frozen" by the winter and dead (a little brutal but part of real life). Also, any student that didn't return with three beans didn't survive either. We tacked the alive and dead squirrels for both the Red and Grey/Black groups (yeah, data management integration) in order to see which type of behaviour was more successful.

This continued for February where the students had to bring back four beans, and then March where they had to bring back the final five beans. It was very interesting to see that some students brought back more beans then they were asked to in the first 2 rounds and then they didn't have enough food/beans to survive the rest of the winter. Also many students forgot or had their beans stolen and also didn't survive the winter. We played a few rounds of this game and then the guide introduced the idea of scavengers (yeah food webs/chains!). Two students became a chipmunk and a blue jay and were instructed to steal the squirrel's food stores.

Here is the chart used to keep score for the game- The first chart shows the results of the game played by my class and the second is a blank for your own use. The data can be used to create a variety of graphs after the game as been played and used for further discussion of how the behavioural adaptations of the two squirrels affected their survival.

All in all it was a great day at the field centre and I think my students really learned a lot from the experience. I hope this all makes sense for you in case you are interested in playing the game. I think that it is easily modified to fit animals in your region should you be lucky enough to live where squirrels do not!! LOL...I am not a huge fan of them myself.

Happy Science Learning!

2 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

Jennifer K. said...

What an awesome game! It's great for math and life science, I love it!

Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

Tamara L. Chilver said...

I guess this gives new meaning to "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" and now the new and improved phrase should be "Don't hide all your nuts in one place." Lesson learned- diversify ☺

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