Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Curriculum Resource: Live Preservers Game Teaches Evolutionary Biology

Here is a great game I found that is perfect for the middle school biology classroom.  It is called Life Preservers, and it was developed by the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab at Michigan State University.  The game was developed to teach evolutionary biology concepts, but it does it with a twist.  In the game, aliens are going to ship two invasive species to colonize on Earth for their own purposes, but you only have the ability to eliminate one of them before they start reproducing.  The point of the game is to figure out which one will cause the least damage if it is allowed to stay, based on how it will effect the evolutionary development of this planet's ecosystem.

So you begin by learning something about the planet's historical evolution.  The game has two parts; one is about the time of the dinosaurs, while the other is the rise of mammals, including humans.  In each part, you learn about some of the species of those times that became extinct, and some that have continued to develop into modern times.  Eventually, the characteristics of the two potential alien species are revealed, and you get to choose which one to eliminate and which one to allow to land and to see what changes it brings to life on Earth.

So it is quite an interesting and non-obvious challenge (because both will have some kinds of impacts).  There is a lot of good content, and it is not set up as a win/lose scenario.  Also, playing both parts of the game takes 45 minutes, so it can be done within a typical class period (if you are doing it in an actual classroom scenario).

For more information on the game, visit the teachers website.  But if you want to just jump right in and start saving the planet from alien invasive species, try your hand at Life Preservers.

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