The University of Minnesota distance learning site has a game students can play to create the ecosystems for a successful prairie.
The prairie is one of North America’s great ecosystems and a vital habitat for many plants and animals. Over 98% of the prairie has been lost in the past 150 years—but some people are trying to bring it back, hectare by hectare. Restoring a prairie is a great challenge, requiring knowledge of biology, ecology, climatology, and even economics.
Are you up for the challenge? If you choose the right plants and animals, you can watch the prairie come to life before your eyes! Let’s begin!
North America’s prairie is divided into the tallgrass ecosystem and shortgrass ecosystem (plus an area in between—the “mixed grass” prairie). Which one do you want to restore?
This game fits neatly into geography curricula for a number of states, and also covers parts of the 7th grade social studies standards for Texas — if your state is covered by the tallgrass or shortgrass prairies as shown on the accompanying map, it’s likely your state standards include students’ learning about prairie ecosystems.
The game is fail-safe; it does not allow incorrect selections. It’s not a sim, really, but a basic introduction to what makes a successful prairie. Students should be able to master the game in 15 minutes.
Though developed way up north in Minnesota, the game and species are close to Texas prairies, too. The emphasis on soil points to some of the key errors made by farmers (encouraged by developers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture) which led to the Dust Bowl; this is a good enrichment exercise for Dust Bowl lesson plans. These games cover many of the requirements for Boy Scout merit badges, too: Environmental Science, Wildlife Management, and Soil and Water Conservation, and others.
Update, October 2011: No, I can’t find the game now, either. It appears the Bell Museum took the site down, and trusting (and hoping) they wouldn’t do that, I didn’t pirate any of the images, nor especially the game.
Here’s hoping someone will put the thing back on line, somewhere. If you find it, will you let me know? I’d like to renew the links. Several school systems went through this site to get to the game for classroom activities. It was a good thing.
Update October 30, 2011: Try the game here.