Climate Pursuit is an engaging exercise for any natural or climate science lesson dealing with the topics of evolution, population dynamics, or climate change. It can be played very quickly if students don't take too long to make decisions, easily fitting into a single class period -- including your introduction and analysis afterward. There are no teacher resources attached to the game, so you'll need to create your own context for the lesson.
Since the same lessons are learned in all three of the levels, start students out on the dandelion level, where they have their best chance of success. Students who do well there can advance to the other levels. Pair up your students and have them work to keep a species alive for as long as possible. Have them take notes and then write up their experience, describing which strategies worked and which didn't, and what they might try next time. Then discuss as a class what challenges students had in the game, and how that relates to rising temperatures worldwide.Continue reading Show less
Climate Pursuit is a web-based climate change survival game from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. Students race against time (in a turn-based kind of way) to help one of three species escape rising temperatures by heading north. If the species survives 100 years, players win. This game is a quick, simplified introduction to rising global temperatures and the effect they have on plants and animals. A helpful tutorial is offered each time players begin.
Students can act as dandelions, rats, or birds, each with different abilities and challenges. Each turn equals one year. Students choose a species population within a space and decide whether to have the population move or to evolve it into a new species. Evolution options include increasing reproduction rate, increasing dispersal rate, and developing a higher defense against heat. Each of the evolution options costs DNA credits, which are earned each year, so evolution is only possible with enough credits. Movement, however, is possible only if a given population's numbers are high enough. So it's possible to have years when neither movement nor evolution is possible, which puts species in danger since the warmer temperatures keep moving north.
A timeline at the bottom of the screen shows how many years have been survived so far, and a log is available to help students keep tabs on their species. When a population is in danger of dying out, an exclamation point appears, with that population dying a year or two later -- unless they're moved.
With Climate Pursuit, students will learn about a few traits that affect the survival rate of species in an environment of global warming. The game design and rate of temperature increase aren’t exactly true to life, but the idea that species will need to move to cooler climates to survive long term comes across well. Students will learn to balance movement with evolution, sometimes trading population numbers for adaptation abilities. But, in the animal levels, it's far too easy to lose ground and die out before outrunning the rising temps.
There's only so much that players can do to control the destinies of their species, though. Since dispersal is somewhat random, each round requires new decisions to be made. Students learn to use their DNA credits and moves strategically and carefully, but sometimes an evolved species gets lost, and the evolving must be redone. With a high difficulty rating, players will be lucky if any of their species survive all 100 years, though the dandelions have the best chance, despite their wide dispersal (which sometimes goes south instead of north). The game could be improved for younger students if some strategy hints were included.
Moving around in Climate Pursuit could be smoother. It's easy to lose track of which evolutions have which levels of ability, and the information screens block part of the picture. A slight redesign of the interface would improve the game quite a bit.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
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