In this lesson, students learn about ecology by playing a game mimicking the life of moose.
Tell the students that they are about to become moose or other components of habitat in a highly involving physical activity. The students will identify and describe food, water, and shelter as three essential components of habitat, describe the importance of good habitat for animals, and recognize that some fluctuations in wildlife populations are natural as ecological systems undergo constant change.
An open area, large enough for students to run, is needed for this activity. Remind the students that a community consists of all of the living members of the forest. Clipboard and pencil for the teacher or facilitator.
Begin by telling students that they are about to participate in an activity that emphasizes the most essential things animals need in order to survive. Review the essential components of habitat with the students: food, water, shelter, and space in a suitable arrangement. This activity emphasizes three of those habitat components—food, water and shelter—but the students should not forget the importance of the animals having sufficient space in which to live, and that all the components have to be in a suitable arrangement or the animals will die.
Ask your students to count off in fours. Have all the ones go to one area; all twos, threes and fours go together to another area. Mark two parallel lines on the ground or floor ten to 20 yards apart. Have the ones line up along one line; the rest of the students line up along the other line. (A fourth of the students are at one line and three-fourths of the students are at the other line.)
The ones become “moose.” All moose need good habitat in order to survive. Ask the students what the essential components of habitat are again: food, water, shelter and space in a suitable arrangement.
For the purposes of this activity, we will assume that the moose have enough space in which to live. We are emphasizing food, water and shelter. The moose (the ones) need to find food, water and shelter in order to survive. When a moose is looking for water, it should clamp its hands over its mouth. When it is looking for food, it should clamp its hands over its stomach. When it is looking for shelter, it holds its hands together over its head. A moose can choose to look for any one of its needs during each round or segment of the activity; the moose cannot, however, change what it is looking for—for example, when it sees what is available—during that round. It can change what it is looking for in the next round, if it survives.
The twos, threes and fours are the food, water and shelter-—components of habitat. Each student gets to choose at the beginning of each round which component he or she will be during that round. The students depict which component they are in the same way the moose show what they are looking for; that is, hands on stomach for food, etc.
Playing the Game
The activity starts with all players lined up on their respective lines (moose on one side; habitat components on the other side) and with their backs to the students at the other line.
The facilitator or teacher begins the first round by asking all of the students to make their signs—each moose deciding what it is looking for, each habitat component deciding what it is. Give the students a few moments to get their hands in place—over stomachs, mouths, or over their heads. (As you look at the two lines of students, you will normally see a lot of variety—with some students water, some food, some shelter. As the activity proceeds, sometimes the students confer with each other and all make the same sign. That’s okay, although don’t encourage it. For example, all students in habitat might decide to be shelter. That could represent a drought year with no available food or water. Note: If students switching symbols in the middle of a round is a problem, you can avoid that by having stacks of three different tokens, or pieces of colored paper, to represent food, water and shelter at both the habitat and moose ends of the field. At the start of each round, players choose one of the symbols before turning around to face the other group.
When you can see that the students are ready count: “One…two…three.” At the count of three, each moose and each habitat component turn to face the opposite group, continuing to hold their signs clearly.
When moose see the habitat component they need, they are to run to it. Each moose must hold the sign of what it is looking for until getting to the habitat component person with the same sign. Each moose that reaches its necessary habitat component takes the “food”, “water”, or “shelter” back to the moose side of the line. This is to represent the moose’s successfully meeting its needs, and successfully reproducing as a result. Any moose that fails to find its food, water, or shelter dies and becomes part of the habitat. That is, in the next round, the moose that died is a habitat component and so is available as food, water, or shelter to the moose who are still alive. Note: When more than one moose reaches a habitat component, the student who gets there first survives. Habitat components stay in place on their line until a moose needs them. If no moose needs a particular habitat component during a round, the habitat component just stays where it is in the habitat. The habitat person can, however, change which component it is from round to round.
You, as the facilitator or teacher, keep track of how many moose there are at the beginning of the activity, and at the end of each round you record the number of moose also. Continue the activity for approximately 10-15 rounds. Keep the pace brisk and the students will thoroughly enjoy it.
At the end of the rounds, gather the students together to discuss the activity. Encourage them to talk about what they experienced and saw. For example, they saw a small moose herd begin by finding more than enough of its habitat needs. The population of the moose expanded over two to three rounds of the activity until the habitat was depleted and there was not sufficient food, water and shelter for all the members of the herd. At that point, moose starved or died of thirst or lack of shelter, and they returned as part of the habitat. Such things happen in nature also.
Note: In real life, large mammal populations might also experience higher infant mortality and lower reproductive rates as a result of overpopulation of habitat.
After the students have played several rounds of “Oh Moose!,” introduce a predator such as a bear or wolf into the simulation. The predator starts in a designated “predator den” area off to the side. The predator has to skip or hop. This reduces the possibility of violent collisions between moose and predators. The predators can only tag moose when they are going towards the habitat and are between the habitat and moose lines. Once a moose is tagged, the predator takes the moose back to the predator den. That simulates the time it takes to eat. The “eaten” moose is now a predator. Predators that fail to tag someone die and become habitat. That is, in the next round, the predators that died join the habitat line. They will become available to surviving moose as either food, water or shelter. During each round, the teacher should keep track of the number of predators as well as the number of moose.
In discussion, ask the students to summarize some of the things they have learned from this activity.
This lesson is part of our "Pathways to Discovery" unit. The individual lessons can be done individually or as a larger unit of learning. They encourage the development of a student’s awareness and appreciation of the natural world and people’s relationship and role as a part of that natural world.
The lessons are a series of shorter activities that have been blended together under a specific theme with the intent that the activities will be coordinated with units in the existing school curriculum and texts. The materials are organized by grade level, but can actually be adapted for use at any grade level. Check out the
, as well as links to other stand-alone lessons like this one.