In this game, students are parents that are trying to raise all their offspring. But different hunting locations and the predators withing make finding food difficult. As such, students will have to figure out how to best use the energy that they collected to survive and raise the most offspring they can
Playing Hungry Birds
Hungry Birds is very similar to the game Flappy Bird – students have to tap the screen to keep their bird flying and avoid obstacles while collecting food.
After each round of searching for food, they will return to the nest and have to decide how to feed their offspring with the limited resources they collected.
You should aim to have between 2-3 play sessions. After your students have played a round, you can move on to the second YouTube video where you will see Fonti and I play as well. It’s up to you whether you let your students play along during the video or after the video. We’ll be looking through some of the data in the video together.
Let’s take a look at the data
One thing I want you to undestand is that you may have different patterns because of the different choices your students make. However, viewing these graphs below will at least prepare you for the discussion with your students.
Like Xenon Crowe, Hungry Birds has a leaderboard for those more competitive students.
You can use this leaderboard as a means to start a conversation. Here are some examples:
- Ask the higher ranking students to explain which sites they visited to collect so many bugs.
- Ask each of the top 10 students how many offspring they had survive and compare with other students in the class to see if there’s a correlation between food caught and offspring survived.
- Ask students to figure out a way to get into the top 10 – what strategy would they use (this way, they are actually making a prediction).
How often students chose each site
This graph displays the number of times that students selected each of the sites to visit the first (in green) and last ( in red) attempt. Along the x-axis are the various sites, and along the y-axis are the counts. In this graph, you can see that students favoured the forest the first time they played. But that the preference decreased the second time they played.
Use this as an opportunity to discuss the different ecological environments and the challenges faced there – why were there favourite locations? What does that mean for how animals behave? Could we use this understanding – that there is food in a particular environment – to understand why real animals behave this way (think of ibises and their preference for rubbish bins).
You can also ask students what they would predict would happen is in the next graph – what should we see with the number of bugs caught in each of the locations?
Remember to discuss both the differences within a location (the first and second time students played) and the differences between locations (just looking at the red and green bars individually). Each of these aspects tells a different story and challenges your students to understand what the data are telling them.
The number of insets caught at each location
This graph shows the number of bugs that students collected in each of the locations. Again, the x-axis is the different locations and the y-axis is the number of bugs caught. We can now understand how successful students were at catching bugs in each of the locations the first (in green) and second (in red) time that students played.
With this graph, you can discuss whether students were making the best choices. Students collected the most bugs in the forest – is that the location they spent the most time in? The mountains and the Ocean were the worst locations, why was that? Were the challenges particularly difficult there?
Again, make sure you discuss the within and between differences in the data to understand the story that is being told both at each location and between locations each time students played.
Does the number of bugs eaten affect fitness?
This graph makes that connection that students were likely already talking about. This graph shows how many offspring they had survive – that is what fitness is. This is a term that biologists use to explain t=how many offspring an organism left behind. And on the x-axis is the number of bugs that a player caught.
So this time, the graph is not plotting averages (as in how many bugs were caught in each site) or totals (as in how many times each location was chosen), but it is plotting each player’s data on how many bugs they caught and how many of their offspring survived. What you’ll notice is that the students that caught more bugs had more offspring. And that’s in both the first time and last time they played.
This is the first time they have seen a graph that with continuous data on both the x and y axes. This is their first linear regression. Make sure they understand that each point is their performance.
You can use this graph to make sense of the decisions that students made to visit each of the locations – if offspring survival depends on the number of bugs caught, then students should be selecting the sites with the most bugs. Were their predictions correct? In a sense, they were learning to go to different sites because those sites offered the most rewards.
This is where you could extend things into real animals – do we see animals learning in this way? When you go amping, do you see Kookaburra’s sitting around the BBQ area? Why would they do that? Why do cities often have more ibises and gulls than rural areas?
By the end of this lesson, students should have an understanding that animals perform certain behaviours because those behaviours are associated with greater success and the opportunity to have more offspring.
This is the foundation for evolution – the idea that different individuals perform differently as a consequence of their choices. You can talk about what it would mean if (in this instance) students that visited the forest and city had more offspring and that those offspring also preferred the forest and city (this is the concept of heritability). This should nicely prepare them for next weeks lesson about evolution.
This experiment can lead to a lot more discussion. Follow what interests your students. Below are some suggestions.
Ask students if they used the ‘go back to the nest‘ button – did they notice that if they used the button instead of getting injured that they would leave with all their food? How do they think that their performance wold have changed if they used that button?
What do students thin would happen if they were forced to only visit the mountains and the ocean? What would happen to their fitness, and more generally, the population of birds in their classroom? What does that tell us about habitat conservation? Is it important or not?
What strategies did the students use to feed their nestlings? Would that strategy change if they had less food to give their nestlings? i.e. would they become pickier on who they feed to ensure the strong ones survive?