16 hula hoops or 16 sheets of construction paper in 4 colours, dice. indoor or outdoor open space at least 6 by 6 metres, Activity 3 Game Rules (see below)
Many people are familiar with the concept of habitat: wildlife need food, water, shelter, and space to survive. In this activity, we focus on an animal's need for space and the concept of connection between different parts of that animal's space.
Wild animals must travel between parts of their habitat, depending on the time of day, the time of year, or the stage in their life cycle. The more an animal's different spaces remain connected by good habitat, the better its chance of long-term survival. On the other hand, travel across poor habitat can increase the animal's exposure to predators, the elements, and human traffic. The loss of connections between habitat spaces has become such a problem for wildlife that it has earned its own name: habitat fragmentation. When habitat fragmentation occurs, all the necessary parts of an animal's habitat still exist, but they may be separated by barriers, such as roads and other expanses of unsuitable habitat, that prevent the animal from travelling safely between its special spaces.
For this game, each team represents a single wild animal. The coloured hoops scattered on the playing field represent different special spaces that make up its habitat. The object of the game is for a team to claim one hoop of each colour by placing a foot on it, while remaining physically connected to one another. (Note: coloured construction paper may be used in lieu of hoops.) The Activity 3 Game Rules give detailed instructions.
The text below describes four of the special spaces for the great blue heron. Students can role-play a heron population as they do parts two and three of the activity. Pick an animal found in your area to make it relevant to the students.
Great Blue Heron Special Spaces
Space 1, Nesting: Large nest at the top of dead tree in a shallow wetland
Space 2, Summer Feeding: Marshes, streams, lakes, and river shorelines
Space 3, Resting: Large trees at the shore's edges
Space 4, Overwintering: Southern wetland areas with open waters
- Brief the students on the concept of habitat for wildlife (arrangement of food, water, shelter, and space suitable to an animal's needs) and the importance of certain types of space to an animal's survival. Use the great blue heron as an example. Point out that the best habitat for any species offers connection between the animal's different special space needs. Discuss the concept of "habitat fragmentation."
- Set up the playing field indoors or outdoors as indicated in the Activity 3 Game Rules. Appoint a referee and create up to four teams of 4–6 players each. (For larger class sizes, have half the groups play and the other half watch and comment and then reverse the roles so that all groups have a chance to play.)
- Play the two rounds of the game as described in the rules.
- Debrief the activity as described in the rules.
Activity 3 Game Rules
The team's objective is to simultaneously "claim" one hoop or square of each of the four types of heron habitat space. Each type of habitat space corresponds to a different colour on the playing field, and teams claim spaces by placing a team member's foot, hand, or other body part on them. Team members must remain physically connected to one another by, for instance, holding hands. (If students are self-conscious about physically touching, have them maintain contact with one another through short lengths of string.)
Rules and Setup
- Set up a 4 metre by 4 metre playing field with 16 “spaces.” Use squares of coloured paper taped to the floor or hula hoops scattered on a field. For best results, set up the pattern as shown above, with one square or hoop of each colour along each side. Appoint one student to act as referee. Give the referee a die and a description of the great blue heron special spaces.
- Have the referee assign a colour to each of the four heron habitat spaces. For example:
- Space 1, Nesting, corresponds to yellow
- Space 2, Summer feeding, corresponds to blue
- Space 3, Resting, corresponds to green
- Space 4, Overwintering, corresponds to red (Note: The numbers one to four on the die will correspond to the numbers indicated on the four types of heron spaces. Use numbers five and six to indicate "roll again.")
- To start, gather each team of 4–6 players on a different side of the game board and have them hold hands. They must maintain physical contact with one another for the entire round.
- Quickly brief the teams. Tell the players that each team represents a great blue heron, and each colour of square or hoop represents a different one of the heron's special requirements for space. Explain which colour corresponds to which type of space. They must remember this! Explain that the heron must connect the four types of habitat spaces to survive.
- Have the referee roll the die and call out the heron habitat type indicated: nesting, summer feeding, resting, or overwintering. The teams must gather all their players on or near any space of that habitat type (colour) and place at least a foot, hand, or other body part in the space to claim it. Only one team can claim any one space; the first team there claims the spot. If there are too many players to fit in the space, they may simply gather between spaces.
- Have the referee throw the die again and call out the habitat type indicated. If the habitat type is different, the team must claim a space of the corresponding colour while keeping possession of the first space, and while remaining linked to one another. If the habitat type is the same as the one just called, the team must abandon the first space and claim another unoccupied space of that type. (Note: Teams can cross over or under the arms/legs of other teams as long as they remain linked and as long as they do not occupy unearned spaces. Team members can stand or walk between spaces.)
- Have the referee continue to roll the die and call habitat spaces. Each time, the teams must try to claim a new space of that type, while keeping at least one team member in each of their other spaces and staying linked. This continues until all teams occupy a space of each colour.
- Assign one team the role of "human development" and play again. Rules and procedures remain the same, except for the following:
- With each roll, allow the human development group to go first and claim their space before other teams are allowed to move.
- Humans do not need to give up a space if a number is repeated.
- Other teams may not pass through (i.e., over or under) the humans. They must go around the human team to claim a space. If they can't, they don't survive.
- Once again, the winners are the teams that occupy a space of each colour.
- What effect do people have on habitat connectivity?
- How does this affect wildlife?
- What human activities break apart habitat?
- What can we do about habitat fragmentation?
Have students research and create special spaces cards based on other local wildlife species with which to play the game.
Students should be able to describe the four components of habitat, the consequences of habitat fragmentation, and the ways that habitat become fragmented.
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