Teaching Evolution Through Board Games
I’ve enjoyed board games since childhood. Recently we've started to use them in the classroom. In Spring of 2019, along with two graduate students, Morgan Muell and Wilson Guillory, we embarked on a graduate-level course titled Endless Forms and Imperfect Simulations: a gamified introduction to historical and contemporary biogeography. Our course examined the mechanisms that drive the evolution and maintenance of biodiversity through geological time. The course explored novel active learning techniques to teach difficult concepts. The class format included discussion of primary scientific literature coupled with hands-on exercises (in the form of computer simulations or analog simulations using strategic board games).
In preparation for the course, we (myself, Morgan Muell, Wilson Guillory, Alli Kellerman) played many of the currently available evolution themed strategy board games. Below we provide detailed reviews of the games and their potential educational value.
-Bios: Origins (second edition) by Sierra Madre Games 3.8/5
-Greenland (third edition) by Sierra Madre Games 3.5/5
-Neanderthal (second edition) by Sierra Madre Games 3.9/5
-On the Origin of Species by Mont Taber 3.3/5
Our Top Choices
In the two courses that I have used board games in, we used Evolution: The Beginning, Evolution: Climate, Bios: Origins (second edition), Biosphere, Bios: Megafauna (second edition). The games were chosen due to their strong link of gameplay to key biological concepts. As we progressed through the four games, as ordered above, they increased in complexity and spatio-temporal scope, moving from population-level processes over short periods of time to global processes over half a billion years.
Other Quality Strategy Games Useful for Science Education
We haven't played all of these, but have heard great things.