Thingdom

Cartoon "Things" make selective breeding a blast

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 2 reviews

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

4–9

Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, Science

Price: Free
Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows, Web

Pros: A tidy, whimsical design makes learning genetics trait recombination less intimidating and boring.

Cons: Minigames lack learning value, and there's not a ton of depth.

Bottom Line: It's pretty simple, but totally free with just enough charm, critical thinking, and experimentation to get kids excited about he world of genetics.

Teachers can use Thingdom best as a followup to a basic lesson in genetic inheritance and expression. Thingdom provides a poignant follow-up to lessons on Punnett squares as well, as students can see the likelihood of genetic expression while reviewing possible traits before breeding.

Thingdom challenges kids to breed and collect a diverse family of Things -- cute, fictional cartoon creatures. Students choose a potential mate by reviewing the mate's genetic traits, and the likelihood of trait inheritance. Then students must complete non-educational but fun minigames to help their Things impress their mates. After breeding, students get to choose the Thing they'd like to join their family. Each of the play zones has unique decorations for Things to wear, such as sombreros, and a different pool of mates (and traits). Things are saved between sessions, allowing students to build collections.

Beautifully and adorably packaged, Thingdom has the potential to grab students and get them interested in genetics, but it'll just get the ball rolling. Students will get some good information on -- and practice toying with -- gene inheritance and expression, and some familiarity with statistics. The minigames -- while not tied to the content -- provide an effective break mid-play, keeping students' minds active and alert as they enjoy themselves. Because players are encouraged to collect more Things for their family, they have ample opportunity to practice different gene combinations, creating the types of creatures they want.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

Kids breed and collect cute "things," which are cartoon creatures with diverse genetic traits. Colorful graphics make these creatures pop, and provide a light, quirky feel.

Pedagogy

To produce offspring with particular traits, kids must evaluate the dominant and recessive genetic traits of their creature and its potential mates, and predict outcomes in offspring. 

Support

Tutorials to get things started, and feedback is given during play. Challenges can be restarted if kids get stuck. The accompanying website provides further learning about the human body, brains, and genes.

Community Rating

Cute-but lacks critical thinking

This is a cute appealing game that starts off strong. Definitions of key genetic terms are given up front, and students can select their "thing" and name it. In fact, giving the students choices is one thing that is good about this game. However, too much time is spent on impressing the potential mate, and while it may be true that in the natural world, animals sometimes perform elaborate rituals to obtain a mate, this point may be lost on the learner. Time could be better spent analyzing traits and making prediction that are tested, not outright given. Students may come away from this having a better understanding of genetics in general, but won't get an opportunity to truly test their knowledge.

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