Lake Erie Center

Macropoly Lesson Plan

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Discipline Focus:
Environmental Science, Biology

Grade Level:

3-5 class periods (including period to play)

Project 2061 Benchmarks:

  • Agreat diversity of species increases the chance that at least some living things will survive in the face of large changes in the environment. 5A/H1b
  • Animals and plants have a great variety of body plans and internal structures that contribute to their being able to make or find food and reproduce. 5A/M2
  • In classifying organisms, scientists consider details of both internal and external structures. 5A/M3b*
  • All organisms, including the human species, are part of and depend on two main interconnected global food webs. One includes microscopic ocean plants, the animals that feed on them, and finally the animals that feed on those animals. The other web includes land plants, the animals that feed on them, and so forth. The cycles continue indefinitely because organisms decompose after death to return food material to the environment. 5A/M5
  • The variation of organisms within a species increases the likelihood that at least some members of the species will survive under changed environmental conditions. 5A/H1a
  • Aclassification system is a framework created by scientists for describing the vast diversity of organisms, indicating the degree of relatedness between organisms, and framing research questions. 5A/H5** (SFAA)
  • Ecosystems can be reasonably stable over hundreds or thousands of years. As any population grows, its size is limited by one or more environmental factors: availability of food, availability of nesting sites, or number of predators. 5D/H1*
  • Human beings are part of the earth's ecosystems. Human activities can, deliberately or inadvertently, alter the equilibrium in ecosystems. 5D/H3
  • Investigations are conducted for different reasons, including to explore new phenomena, to check on previous results, to test how well a theory predicts, and to compare theories. 1B/H1
  • Hypotheses are widely used in science for choosing what data to pay attention to and what additional data to seek, and for guiding the interpretation of the data (both new and previously available). 1B/H2
  • Sometimes, scientists can control conditions in order to obtain evidence. When that is not possible, practical, or ethical, they try to observe as wide a range of natural occurrences as possible to discern patterns. 1B/H3*
  • There are different traditions in science about what is investigated and how, but they all share a commitment to the use of logical arguments based on empirical evidence. 1B/H4*

Students will learn the identification of benthic macroinvertebrates as well as their niche, habitat, pollution tolerance, and importance in determining water quality by creating a game similar to  “Monopoly”.   In addition to learning the importance of benthic organisms as indicators of water quality, students will learn the impact human activity has upon aquatic environments and how these organisms react to anthropogenic changes.

Learning about benthic macroinvertebrates involves not only identification, but importance in an aquatic environment as well.   Knowing how to collect, identify, and categorize macroinvertebrates allows students to use them to calculate a biotic index to help determine the overall water quality in which they live. In addition, learning the individual niche helps students to understand the role of each and helps to explain the importance of diversity in an ecosystem.   As part of the game, students need to be made aware of the impact human activities have upon water quality and the organisms that live in aquatic environments.  In games as well as in real life, there are risks associated with certain behaviors.  Students should investigate how changes in water quality result from human related activities and relate these changes to diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates.  These alterations should be included to give real world application to the game and overall learning experience.

This lesson should be used a part of a larger unit on water quality but can also be used as part of a unit on classification.

Using games for teaching important concepts is a highly motivating technique to engage students in their learning.  Typically, teachers create instructional activities to teach or reinforce concepts for their students.  Allowing students to create their own instructional materials engages the learner at a much deeper and more meaningful level.  Rather than creating instructional materials to teach concepts, why not allow the concepts to serve as the focus for learners to create (or construct) their own knowledge through the creation and construction of learning games.

The intent of the lesson is to allow students to create their own game using information either provided by the instructor or through independent research.  Students should use the set-up, board, and rules of “Monopoly” as a basis for the construction of their game.  Teachers should provide a “Monopoly” game as an example and duplicate the rules of the game for each student or group of students.  Important information on benthic invertebrates can be found on numerous websites. Particularly useful websites are listed below.  Field guides are also useful for identification and other important information.  Teachers may provide various amounts of background information depending upon the grade/ability levels of the students and/or availability of technology in the classroom.  A basic explanation of the use of benthic macroinvertebrates to determine water quality might be useful as an introduction.  Review the concept of a Biotic Index and explain a simple example using benthic macroinvertebrates.  (See References)  If the Internet is not readily available, teachers should prepare a packet of reference material.  If printers are not available for student use, students can draw the macroinvertebrates, which lends additional opportunities for teaching the importance of proper diagramming skills, detail, scale, etc.  

Additional Materials:

  • poster board
  • colored pencils/markers
  • construction paper
  • glue
  • objects for game pieces 

Background Reference Websites:

Description of Game:

This project works best when you allow (or assign) students to groups of two-four.  If students are not familiar with the game Monopoly, take time to explain the purpose of the game, rules, and general play of the game.    To be more effective, students may be given hints as to how to organize their game board but should be allowed to create their own rules, play, etc. 

Sample game (hints):

The basic idea is to replace the play of the game Monopoly with information related to benthic macroinvertebrates.  The game pieces can be small fish or items such as snail/mussel shells, fishing lures (minus hooks), or individual macroinvertebrates.  Encourage students to be creative when determining game pieces. 

In the game Monopoly, squares represent various properties that are color coded by location, and valued by desirability.  In Benthopoly, the squares can represent individual benthic macroinvertebrates (including picture) that can be color coded by niche (scraper, shredder, gatherer, etc.).   The more “expensive” properties on a Monopoly board would be replaced by the more pollution intolerant species of macroinvertebrates.   Each set of squares that share the same niche (color) should have organisms of differing pollution tolerance.  Instead of collecting cottages and hotels, the player will collect components of habitat specific to the individual invertebrate.   Once all four components are obtained, (food, water, space, numbers) the space becomes “ideal” habitat and most costly to land upon.  All of the information relating to the individual macroinvertebrate should be described on the card that is associated with each space.  Each card should have a picture, identifying characteristics, relative size, common/scientific name, niche, food type, habitat, etc.  The four “railroad” spaces can be replaced with “moderately tolerant” species, exotic invaders, highly pollution intolerant species, or any other variation students may create.  Encourage students to design an appropriate replacement for the “GO’, “Jail” and “Free Parking” spaces.  “Chance” cards may have scenarios which enhance player spaces (such as a “free” habitat component, trip to particular space, harmful effects, (which would eliminate habitat components or individual species, introduce an exotic specie, build or remove a dam, add or remove industrial facilities, or other) or cards that a player may hold to cancel a harmful effect in future play.  Chance cards can also represent fines levied against certain scenarios that degrade water quality, habitat, etc.  “Community Chest” cards may represent opportunities funds to purchase sensitive habitat, conduct clean-ups, reintroduce species, improve sewage treatment, create or enhance wetlands, or other scenario, which improves water quality or habitat.  Students should be encouraged to design their own “monopoly” money.   Money can be used to buy, restore, or enhance habitat, pay “fines”, test for or improve water quality, or other scenario students include in the game.  Money designs should include pictures of invertebrates, fish, or other aquatic organisms.   Play continues until all spaces have been purchased.  Only spaces with three of four habitat components can be counted in the Biotic Index.  Players tally their Biotic Index score and the player with the highest score wins. 

Goal of the game:  To accumulate the most diverse collection of benthic macroinvertebrates and with the highest biotic index. 

Their peers should given time in class to play and critique the games students create.

Student performance on this assignment depends upon many factors.  Formative assessment should take place while students are developing their individual games.  Teachers can assess based upon timeliness, group participation, problem solving, or a notebook students keep while developing their games.  Summative assessment should occur after the final product is peer reviewed and may include creativity, completeness, accuracy of information, how the game plays, and student reflection.  Students may also be given a summative quiz or test based upon the information learned while developing the game.  A sample summative scoring rubric is attached.

Other popular board games such as Risk, Clue, Life, etc. can be used replacing or in addition to “Monopoly”.  In a larger class or situation involving multiple classes, assigning board games other than Monopoly reduces the risk of copying and encourages groups to be creative.   Students may be encouraged to include aspects of a local watershed that they have investigated as well.  If sampling for either water quality parameters or benthic macroinvertebrates has been performed, these results can be included along with pictures of the watershed to give real world significance to the games. 


Last Updated: 6/26/15