Teachers can best use Habitactics by helping students analyze their results after an ecosystem crashes. Have students take a picture of the graph that shows up after a crash and paste it into a document. Then have students make a claim and back it up with evidence to answer a question ("Why do you think your forest ecosystem crashed?"). Help students make cause-and-effect observations about their graphs as they notice how one population affects another.Continue reading Show less
Habitactics is well-named, as students try to keep their habitats from crashing by planning moves on a tiled board. The ability to drag three tiles of grass for one rabbit and three rabbits for one fox is designed to help students build early ideas about the biomass energy pyramids. Students will also begin to see how different species affect each other and the success of the ecosystem. Gross-out facts (such as that rabbits eat their own poop for nutrition) will appeal to elementary and middle school students.
As students advance, each level showcases a different ecosystem, such as the forest, tundra, or rainforest. In each habitat students learn fun facts about a few organisms -- for example, the male musk ox gives off a smell to attract females. Kids earn points by eating organisms lower on the food chain, allowing them to reproduce. A puzzle component requires a certain amount of strategy; students must make sure herbivores such as rabbits are in the right place so that carnivores, such as foxes, can eat them. After an ecosystem crashes, students can view a graph of population data.
Habitactics is a slightly addictive game that has kids planning a few steps ahead and squeezes in some ecology along the way. At first you might not realize how important the science is, but biological principals are skillfully woven into the game. Students learn how group behavior benefits some organisms on the arctic level, such as maneuvering wolves to surround a musk ox to consume it. Students can use Habitactics to figure out for themselves why top-level predators are important; if the fox or the wolves go extinct, the entire ecosystem is affected and usually fails. These scenarios can help kids as they consider real-world issues such as the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.
Playing Habitactics is fun and may help with a few key ecological concepts, but it's not all-encompassing. For example, through play students learn that decomposers such as fungi are important. However, the app says they put nutrients back into the dirt so plants can grow, which may build a misconception that plants eat dirt. Habitactics does not address the carbon cycle or how matter returns to the atmosphere through cellular respiration.
Key Standards Supported
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
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