Life And Death In The Forest

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Lesson Summary

This game demonstrates how different organisms in an ecosystem interact. It works best if several field groups are available to play that there are enough students involved. Students will play herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores in this ecosystem while making sure that they maintain enough resources throughout the game to stay alive. 

Enduring Understanding

  • Ecosystems consist of interacting organisms and their physical environment and have many interdependent relationships.

Knowledge and Skills Developed

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the sources of matter and energy for different organisms in an ecosystem. 
  • Describe multiple relationships between themselves and other elements in their ecosystem. 

Age Group: 4th-6th Graders

Venue: Forest Loop Wild Zone, Creaky Tree Meadow

Materials: 2 red bandanas, 4 yellow bandanas, 1 green bandana, 1 blue bandana, at least 2 field groups, lots of rubberbands

Time: 30 minutes

Set-up: Collect the materials, maybe stash them at your spot so you don't have to carry it all around all day. 

Lesson Plan


You are what you eat! One way that scientists classify animals is by what they eat. In general, animals are categorized as herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. Herbivores are animals that only eat plants, carnivores are animals that only eat other animals (meat), and omnivores are animals that eat both plants and other animals. All animals need food and water to survive. This is a game of stealth to see who is the best at surviving (and thriving) in the forest! All the animals in this game will need to stealthily find resources and avoid predation. This game is best played in the Forest Loop Wild Zone or Creaky Tree Meadow. 

The core game:

Each student will play a carnivore, an omnivore, or an herbivore. Students will wear a red bandana around their upper arm to signify that they are a carnivore, a yellow bandana to signify that they are an omnivore, or no bandana to signify that they are an herbivore. In this game, carnivores can eat (tag) everybody, omnivores can eat (tag) only herbivores, and herbivores can eat (tag) no one. At the beginning of the game, students will be provided rubberbands to signify how much energy they have. Carnivores start with one rubberband, omnivores start with 3 rubberbands, and herbivores start with 5 rubber bands. When a student gets tagged, they lose one rubberband to the person who tagged them. (Taggers are only allowed to get one rubberband at a time for one person - students should not be tagging the same students over and over again.) Students can replenish their energy (get more rubberbands) by visiting the waterhole, signified as a blue bandana laying on the forest floor. If a student runs out of rubberbands, then they must call "MOTHER NATURE, MOTHER NATURE!" to communicate that they need her to come give them more resources. (Mother Nature can be played by an instructor or a child.) Mother Nature will walk around the game with a bag of rubberbands and provide resources to the animals in need. Midway through the game, instructors can add a human, signified by a hat or another color bandana, to the game. Humans can hunt herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. 

Remind your students that this a game of stealth! Running is NOT ALLOWED at all and will result in losing rubberbands. Students must sneakily walk to catch their prey. If a student is seen running, instructors and chaperones will take away a rubberband! You can pitch this to your students by saying that by running, they are using using too much energy. 

Be sure to clearly delineate boundaries before you start playing. Have the students walk the boundary so they know exactly where it is. Use flagging tape or additional colorful bandanas (or backpacks, or waterbottles, or stuffed animals) to mark the boundaries.

Debrief Questions: 

  • What do you think was realistic in this ecosystem?
  • What do you think was unrealistic in this ecosystem?
  • What strategies did you use to make sure you had enough food and water throughout the game?
  • What impact did the human(s) have on the ecosystem? How do you think that humans are part of ecosystems?

Created by Alex Guest, Nov 20 2016