Insects are not generally appealing to most, outside the “charismatic” colorful butterflies and beetles. How can flies and “maggots” be presented in an interesting and appealing way? The secret lies in exposing the insects’ secret lives. Did you know that you can use “maggots” to see if the water from a stream is good to drink? That there are primitive crane flies that have survived seemingly unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs (Jurassic period)? What if I told you there are entire families of flies that parasitize spiders as big as tarantulas? Or that there are fly larva living in rivers with ventral hydraulic suckers that keep them firmly attached to the submerged rocks?
This free game is meant to serve both typically developing children and atypically developing children (such as those with mild autism and other special needs). The materials encompass written words which can be read by the child or out loud by the educator, photos for visual representation, and tactile pieces to enhance understanding.
There are two main components to this educational approach: 1) the game and 2) facilitated discussion (the role of the educator).
Students engage in a combination of topics including species discoveries, endemism, climate change, introduced species and biomonitoring through exploration, discovery and proactive thinking.
The game board itself is an artistic composite of satellite images of geological features and habitats of Patagonia (Aysén, Chile).
As “explorers” the players set off into an unknown land traveling to different habitats looking for rare and new species of insects, which must be acquired through species-specific tools (insect net, tweezers, etc.) These tools can only be obtained by answering questions about the biodiversity. The questions will vary according to the age group of the players.
Along the way, players will encounter introduced species and will learn about their impact on the environment (how they displace/outcompete endemic species). Likewise, they will learn about the microhabitat of where each species inhabits.
The bioindicator approach is simple and aims to provide the students with a broad understanding of their use as bioindicators as well as a simplistic view of how to identify the groups themselves.
Along the way, the players may acquire, through the draw of a wild card, an “invasive species” and they will try to figure out a way to “deal with” (control) the invasive species that established itself in the player’s new land.
The game is meant to have a group approach. The player with the most species is not the winner, rather the object of the game is to discuss and interpret the various insects and their habitat information to create a balance.
The insects selected for this game prototype are a combination of new, charismatic and poorly known species. The insect information provided is based on scientific facts from peer-reviewed publications and accurate unpublished accounts of natural history of the selected species.
Facilitated Discussion (the role of the educator).
The educator does not need to be an expert in entomology to use this game with the students. The educator is meant to help facilitate the learning before and after the game is played. An introduction of broad topics such as biodiversity, ecosystems, etc. can be presented prior to playing the game. The focus can be based on how the game’s material fits with the curriculum requirements of the classroom.
At the end of the game the educator will guide a discussion among players to help each other to achieve “a planet in balance” based on the insects they collected. Further discussion is encouraged so that students reflect on what they learned and why it is important.
The goal of the facilitated discussion is to encourage the students to explain their reasoning for how they played the game and their strategy of creating a diverse, healthy ecosystem. There is potential for many perspectives and outcomes, which creates a more powerful learning process.
Note: This learning tool was inspired by ten years of education, conservation and scientific experience working with local communities across the Americas in conservation topics to help educators engage their students and bring the wonders of exploration and scientific discoveries into the classroom.
This game and its components can be adapted to any part of the world in dimensions as small as a county to as large as a continent and beyond. As well, this game and its components/content can be adapted for diverse learning styles and is currently being developed in Spanish and English.
*For more information including rules of the game and access to PDFs of the components, please reach out through the comment section of this blog or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Equipment used for this nine month project is courtesy of Fulbright, National Geographic, Iridium, Alpacka Raft, Aqua-Bound, Boo Bicycles, Kokatat, Seal Line, Osprey, Tentsile, Patagonia, Voltaic & Jax Outdoor Gear.