Changing Planet

A Fun Approach for Educators to Engage Students in Insect Biodiversity & Climate Change

 

Game logo. Design by R. Isaí Madriz

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?

How can you engage young minds in complex topics like climate change, conservation, endemism and bioindicators of environmental health in one fun package?

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).

 

The Game. 

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).

Game board with Explanation of Figures. Design by R. Isaí Madriz

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.

Species Card with Explanation of Figures. Design by R. Isaí Madriz

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.

R. Isaí Madriz acquiring torrent midge information for the game. Photo by Anand Varma.

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 rimadriz@iastate.edu

 

Follow Isaí Madriz on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Equipment used for this nine month project is courtesy of Fulbright, National Geographic, Iridium, Alpacka Raft, Aqua-BoundBoo Bicycles, Kokatat, Seal Line, Osprey, TentsilePatagonia, Voltaic & Jax Outdoor Gear.

 

 

Dr. R. Isaí Madriz is an entomologist and zoologist with expertise in freshwater aquatic insects of Patagonia. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow, he is telling the story of deglaciation of the Northern Patagonia Ice Field, focusing on its vanishing aquatic insect diversity through images and stories of exploration, science and human connections. He combines hiking, bikepacking and packrafting to transect unexplored areas and secluded fjords in search of some of the rarest insects on the planet. This low-carbon footprint approach utilizes renewable energy sources to capture never-before-seen footage of remote glacial outlets and hidden valleys of wild Patagonia. Madriz is documenting the largely unknown endemic aquatic insect fauna of this vital region before Chile’s Aysén region’s biodiversity is transformed forever.
  • Victor

    Isai! Greetings from a warmer climate. I am fascinasted to your approach to teaching and learning! This game could lead to many opportunities for educators. I love the fact that you take along the entire classroom to the many adventures you’ve experienced. Please, tell me the list of requirements needed in order to receive your game. Thank you! And Great Job!

    • Hello Victor,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and inquire about the game. I will be completing the translations soon and I can provide you with the PDF’s shortly thereafter.

      If you could provide me with more information regarding the age group/s of your students, I will do my best to modify it to fit your needs. Please send me an email with the information to the following address: rimadriz@iastate.edu.

      Once again thank you and I look forward to receiving your response.

    • Isaí Madriz

      Hello Victor,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and inquire about the game. I will be completing the translations soon and I can provide you with the PDF’s shortly thereafter.

      If you could provide me with more information regarding the age group/s of your students, I will do my best to modify it to fit your needs. Please send me an email with the information to the following address: rimadriz@iastate.edu.

      Once again thank you and I look forward to receiving your response.

  • Barbara Lindsay

    Hola Isai! My 4th grade class loved reading your story about the Glorious Primitive Crane Fly. After that we were so excited to receive our set of cards to play the Memory game version to learn more about the insects that are vital to the Patagonian ecosystem. Using the cards was an effective and engaging way to extend their learning, and it was fun! We are really looking forward to trying the board game. Your commitment to combining science, education, and the environment is so vital to the health of our planet. Thank you for inspiring us! As one of my students said, “I didn’t know flies could be so important and beautiful.”

    • Hola Ms. Lindsay.

      Thank you for your message and incredible feedback.

      I am glad you received the memory version of the game and that your students learned about the beauty and importance of insects. Your student’s quote makes all the months I have spent searching for and photographing the live insects well worth it.

      I will finish the translation of the questions and species descriptions and I will make sure to provide you with a physical copy as soon as I am able.

      Thank you again for trying the demo and providing a critique.

    • Isaí Madriz

      Hola Ms. Lindsay.

      Thank you for your message and incredible feedback.

      I am glad you received the memory version of the game and that your students learned about the beauty and importance of insects. Your student’s quote makes all the months I have spent searching for and photographing the live insects well worth it.

      I will finish the translation of the questions and species descriptions and I will make sure to provide you with a physical copy as soon as I am able.

      Thank you again for trying the demo and providing a critique.

  • Emily Campbell

    Wow Isai this is SO amazing!!! Truly a one-of-a-kind game and what a fun way to inform the public about the beauty and importance of insects. I can’t wait to see what else you produce from all the incredible work you’re doing! -Emily

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