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Who Wants to Live a Million Years?

Fast, focused natural selection game encourages experimentation

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 3 reviews

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

4–12

Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, Science

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

Pros: Cute graphics and Charles Darwin himself set the scene for a hands-on introduction to natural selection.

Cons: A lack of explanation of results misses an opportunity for deeper learning.

Bottom Line: Gives students a thoroughly interesting and interactive introduction to natural selection, paving the way for deeper study.

Teachers can use Who Wants to Live a Million Years? as an introduction to the concept of natural selection and to Charles Darwin's life and career. Its engaging interface will keep students' interest while they practice pertinent concepts, which can lead to deeper lessons on evolution, genetics, and other biology topics. Teachers will want to follow up with a clarification of what students experience to let the core concepts of natural selection sink in.

Who Wants to Live a Million Years? is a hands-on introduction to the concept of natural selection that allows students to make choices to guide the process. Cute not-seen-in-the-real-world creatures with specific features -- such as long or short legs, long or short necks, fur or no fur, and stripes or no stripes -- make up the potential gene pool. Guided by naturalist Charles Darwin, students choose three creatures with which to begin the natural selection process, in the hope their population will have enough variation to withstand climate change and predators for a million years, establishing a viable lineage over time. During the game, environmental and other disasters occur that guide the evolution of the population and decrease their number. At two points in the game, students can, if they wish, introduce a mutation into the population that will help guide their creatures' evolution during crisis. The game also includes information on Darwin's life, a quiz, and a glossary of useful terms.

Editor's Note: Who Wants to Live a Million Years is no longer available.

A million years pass very quickly in this game, which lasts only a few minutes. Time stops just a few times for students to make decisions about introducing mutations into the gene pool. While the results of those decisions are shown on-screen, little to no explanation or feedback is given on how to improve results for the next time. The hints screen offers a small amount of help, giving pros and cons for each body feature, but there's little context for the information or explanation as to why certain parts of the population didn't survive. Still, students will likely want to play the game several times to experiment with different variation combinations and see if their population will survive to the million-year mark. 

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

The playful tone welcomes students, and the short gameplay with frequent -- but fun! -- failure encourages continued experimentation.

Pedagogy

While not a thorough lesson on natural selection, it's an engaging hands-on introduction. Students will quickly grasp the basics but might crave more interactivity and flexibility.

Support

The game includes initial instructions and hints to help choose mutations and variations, but there's little explanation of game results.

Community Rating

Fun way introduce and engage students in natural selection with a game that students can pick up quickly.

It makes for an engaging and memorable game for students to interact with, though it will not suffice as a single source of information on the subject.
The text is fairly straihtforward, but teacher would have to be prepared to give some support for ELL and Special Ed students.

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