Lesson 3: Laws of the Jungle
Students will learn about animals and ecology through games.
Students will use the structure of a game to study the relationships between different animals and their role in ecology.
Worksheet 3; pen or pencil, computer access
Time required: 45-50 minutes, plus game design time
What to do:
1. Tell students that the predator-prey relationship is an important aspect of the animal world. Understanding that relationship is a vital part of learning about animals and their ecosystems. Show students videos of predator and prey behavior; some safe options are listed below. Other good resources for videos include the Blue Planet and Planet Earth series.
2. Discuss the variables that affect predator-prey relationships. These variables include the attributes of each animal, including its health, its strengths and weaknesses, its environment, and its starting point in the chase. Remind students that the animal kingdom includes more than just mammals; it also includes such creatures as insects, jellyfish, and sponges.
3. Explain that an ecosystem must be in balance for it to survive. For example, no predator can be too effective, or it would eat up all available food resources. Likewise, no prey can be too weak, since it would be eaten up and would disappear. A healthy ecosystem is one that is in balance—a balance of skills, a balance of numbers, and so on.
Using the student worksheet:
4. Distribute Worksheet 3 and tell students that they are going to explore the predator-prey relationship through building a video game. Students will use the website Gamestar Mechanic to build a game using avatars, icons, and characters as representations of various animals. Click below for examples of games that your students can use for inspiration!
5. Have students work individually to plan and build their games. As they use their worksheet to plan the details of the game (including environment and ecosystem), remind them to think about all of the variables in the predator-prey relationship.
6. Guide students in creating avatars and enemies that have a realistic relationship to each other. Their speeds, abilities, and health points are possible variables for control. These can all be built in Gamestar Mechanic. Building an appropriate environment is important, as well. As the game's levels progress, it would make sense to have the animals' strength and ability levels increase, too.
7. Have students set up their computer stations as if they were museum exhibits. Instruct them to write labels for their games to include a short description of the exhibit. Have students walk around and play each other's games. Afterward have them discuss the different games and give feedback.
Encourage your students in grades 7-12 to submit their video game designs to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the chance to earn scholarships and awards. Click here for information and registration details. Collaborations are welcome!
TIP: Click here and discover how easy it is to use the online Gamestar Mechanic game design software. This special section for teachers includes an overview of the program as well as a Quick Start Guide.