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Oh Deer! A Fun Game for Teaching About Population Change and Resources

For one part of our Ecology unit we learned how resource availability affects population. To get a better perspective of this we played the game “Oh Deer”. The students were split into two groups, one group were the deer, and the others were resources (food, water or shelter). They started off by facing away from each other and choosing what resource they wanted to be/needed to obtain and indicated their choice with a specific hand signal:

Food = Hands over stomach (like they are hungry)

Water = Hands over mouth (like a cup of water)

Shelter = Hands over head (like a roof)

When they turned around on the count of 3, the deer had to match with someone who was the same hand signal/resource on the other side. If the deer matched with a resource, the deer and the resource went on to become deer in the next round.

If the deer could not find their resource, they died/decomposed and became resources the next round. Any unused resource remained a resource the next round. To make it more interesting, during the last few rounds we had the resources spread out and hide a little bit!

We recorded the data for each round and then came inside to graph and analyze. They quickly noticed that animal populations will increase and decrease from year to year and that limiting factors are the cause of population change. We concluded the lesson by talking about how wildlife populations tend to fluctuate and are in a process of constant change rather than in “balance.”

Here are some things you can talk about:

  1. The 3 essential components of a habitat are food, shelter, and water.

  2. Population will continue to increase until resources are limited.

  3. Populations increase and decrease

  4. Limiting factors are things that would prevent an animal population from reproducing (lacking food, lacking water, lacking shelter, climate changes, accidents, habitat destruction, hunting, disease, etc...)

  5. Internal Stimuli = hunger and thirst

  6. External Stimuli = shelter and predators

  7. You can ask them if they notice a trend on the graph, and if they continued to play how do they think it would look? (see our green line descending on the top graph, this was their guess.

You will need something so they can see who is who, because they will all be holding up the same hand signs and it may get confusing. We used really cute antlers that I found on amazon (below) and this made it really easy for them to differentiate between who was a deer and who was a resource while playing. I laid the extras on the deer line side for those who turned into a deer to grab easily.

I introduced this concept at the end of our levels of organization lesson, where we learned about populations and communities in an ecosystem. This really helped pull it together!

Some of our fun games, perfect for social emotional learning:

Social Skills UNO grab it here:

Emotional Charades grab it here:


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