This week we have been learning about food chains and webs. All life forms have a method by which they take energy from the surroundings and convert it into energy that helps them live.
producers: organisms that produce their own food
consumers: organisms that eat producers and/or consumers for food
herbivore: a consumer that eats producers only
carnivore: a consumer that eats only other consumers
omnivore: a consumer that eats both producers and consumers
decomposers: recycle dead organisms
To learn about these concepts, we played a really fun game called Into the Forest. I had them play it a couple of times for their schoolwork, but then they wanted to play additional games because they enjoyed playing it. The game consists mainly of cards which represent animals and plants that are found in the forest. Each card lists what the animal eats and what it is eaten by. The game works just like the natural food relationships in the forest with players "eating" and being "eaten" just as they would be in the wild. This game does not have an ending point naturally, so you have to decide ahead of time how many rounds or a length of time you will play before the points are tallied up and the winner is determined.
How It Is Played
1. Deal out all the cards.
2. Players may ask each other for either a Showdown or a Challenge. In a showdown each of the two players lays down a card face-up at exactly the same time. If one card "eats" the other then that player takes the "eaten" card and puts it in their hand. If both cards "eat" each other, or, if neither card "eats" the other then it is a stand-off and each player keeps their original card. At the end of a Showdown play passes to the next player no matter who wins
In a Challenge one player asks another for a certain card and shows the card with which he or she is taking it. Example: "James, I want your grass card, and I'm taking it with my deer card." The player then wins the card and is entitled to another turn.
As long as the player can win cards in a Challenge he or she is entitled to another turn.
If the challenger was wrong and the person being challenged did not have the card the challenger asked for, then the challenger must give up his challenging card to the person wrongly challenged and his turn is over.
If a player does not want to challenge another, he or she can ask someone for a Showdown - and this ends the player's turn.
At the established end of the game, each player counts their energy points. The person with the most energy points wins that round or game.
Sometimes two kinds of animals can eat each other. For instance, preying insects eat spiders, and spiders eat preying insects. In a Showdown neither takes the other, But, in a Challenge, the challenger does take the other card.
Death & Decay Cards
The two Death & Decay cards are very powerful. Thus there are restrictions on their use:
1. Death & Decay may be used as a challenging card only once in a person's turn. (It may be used in an unlimited fashion when defending oneself in a Showdown, however.)
2. There are plants and animals that take Death & Decay cards: any thing that consumes decayed or decaying matter. In a Showdown they provide a stand-off with Death & Decay. In a Challenge the challenger wins. However, a person may capture only one Death & Decay card by Challenge on any one turn.
Making their own Food Web Game
When I did this lesson with my daughter years ago, I was teaching at a co-op class and I gave them the task of making their own food web game based on Into the Forest as homework. They had to pick a different habitat (meadow, desert, etc.) and research the animals and plants that live there. They then had to make up their own cards on index cards, listing the organism, what it eats, what eats it and decide on the organism's energy points. This was a very successful activity and we played their versions the next class.