App review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2014
Dragon Breeder

Dragon Breeder

Genetics gem helps students perfect their Punnett square smarts

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Grades
7–12
Subjects & Skills
Science, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: A thorough look at genetics and breeding, with just enough help to make sure kids know what to do.

Cons: A high amount of front-loaded learning, with nothing in place for special needs.

Bottom Line: A well-implemented game for learning the basics of genetics, and a fun way to solidify knowledge.

Dragon Breeder is a fantastic follow-up activity to learning the basics of genetics and how Punnett squares work. Instead of using old-fashioned Punnett square activity sheets, present students with a game they'll truly enjoy. With eighteen alleles to guess each time they breed a new dragon, the form and function of these in-game Punnett squares will grab students' attention. They'll be eager to solve them and learn more to be able to breed diversity into their dragon population. Just remember to set reasonable time goals: It will take significant time for some students to arrive at the solutions. Time spent searching for dragons to mate with can be extensive, so remind students to use their currencies (gems and brimstone) to take shortcuts. 

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Dragon Breeder is a puzzle-solving and collecting game that challenges students with interesting "work orders" that provide clear goals for creating a diverse genetic population of dragons. Students may also enjoy the free-form format of the quick-start play, in which they fly around the Sky area, encountering other dragons while collecting treasures. When two dragons occupy the same space, the game's interface allows them the option to breed. There are no sex/gender limits, so finding a mate is a minor task, but sometimes particular types of mates are preferred. Dragons encountered in the Sky might have any number of similar or dissimilar genetic traits. This is especially important in the Campaign mode, as the student is tasked with breeding a specific type of dragon with specific alleles. It is up to the students to determine which genotypes the dragons have based on their phenotypes.

The interface of the game is attractive, and the lack of time pressure allows students to experiment as much as they like. Mistakes aren't a problem, since not-needed dragons can be sold to make room for extra mates. It's sometimes difficult to keep track of which dragon is active, however, since the numbers assigned to dragons change as they get moved around or sold, and their number is only displayed in the nest or den. To speed the breeding along, students can spend in-game currency on additional features, such as randomizing genes, trading currency, or cloning dragons.

Dragon Breeder is so good it might just become a core tool for your genetics lessons. Students in middle and high school, and even university students, would benefit from the hands-on approach, and proper terminology is used for all genetic aspects of the game. Working through the process of breeding specific genes with multiple types of alleles for some of the nine simplified genetic traits is handled as effectively as an educator could hope. Learning how to play the game is pretty heavily front-loaded, but also offers plenty of time for extended periods of learning and exploration. This isn't a quick genetics lesson, but rather something students will want to take their time with as they try to breed dragons efficiently for the most diverse genetic outcomes.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Even in beta, it's got the hook and design of a fully developed game. The interface could be tweaked, but the design elements carry their weight. This game is best for kids with an interest in dragons and/or genetics.

Pedagogy

The core is the Punnett square. Executed in the form of puzzles, the challenges in the campaign are elegant and unique, drawing students in with empowerment and experimentation.

Support

Maintains a functional balance of help and data. Students are not flooded with a deluge of unimportant information, but can find help on each screen. The drawback? There are no true accessibility options.


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Featured review by
Julie Y. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
South Portland High School
South Portland, United States
A fun take on genetics!
I feel as if this would go over well in a science classroom for middle or high school students. I was shocked as how into it certain students were getting and would love to see that enthusiasm spread to a classroom setting.
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