Save an Animal Board Game - Impact of Human Activity or Natural Disasters

Ginger Baldwin
Bert Raney Elementary
Granite Falls, MN
Based on an activity from:
Bosak, Susan V. (1991). Science Is... (2nd ed.). Ontario, Canada: Scholastic Canada LTD & The Communication Project.
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To introduce this classroom activity and to have the students start questioning the human impact on our environment, read the following book "Brother Eagle, Sister Sky", by Susan Jeffers to the class. After the story, divide your class into groups of 3-4 students. They need to think of ways that humans and natural disasters could make an impact on animal survival. Share group ideas. Play the board game Save an Animal in which players try to ensure the survival of their animal species while dealing with problems the animals encounter during the game. These problems might be habitat destruction, pollution, or natural disasters.

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Learning Goals

  • Students will list possible ways that human actions could have a positive impact on animal survival.
  • Students will list possible ways that weather or other natural disasters might impact animal survival.

Key concepts:
  • Humans can make a positive or negative impact on animal survival.
  • Weather or natural disasters can have a huge impact on animal survival.

  • Habitat
  • Pollution
  • Natural disasters
  • Human impact

Context for Use

The teaching of human impact on our natural environment could be taught throughout the elementary science curriculum. I would do this activity in grades 3-5. Students should have some knowledge of the above vocabulary words to help them better understand the meaning behind the story and the game.

You will need the book "Brother Eagle, Sister Sky" by Susan Jeffers. The story should be read with your group up close for all to see the beautiful illustrations. A regular size class would work fine for this activity. You will also need for each small group of
3-4 students: paper and pencils for group brainstorming, the game board (enlarged and colored) from the activity description, the prepared playing cards, and one die.

There is some preparation in making the 70 playing cards and game board for each group.

Subject: Biology, Geoscience
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:K12

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity has the following parts:
  • Introduction of reading a picture book to the class, "Brother Eagle, Sister Sky" by Susan Jeffers.
  • Small group brainstorming
  • Large group sharing and discussion
  • Culminating board game with small groups

  • Picture book "Brother Eagle, Sister Sky" by Susan Jeffers

Materials for each small group:
  • Paper and pencil for small group brainstorming
  • 4 sets of three animal markers - use small discs labeled with the animals' names
  • One die
  • Prepare playing cards: 21 red cards, 19 blue cards, and 30 green cards
  • Enlarged and colored game board shown below (see attachment)
  • 21 red cards: these represent major events that can help (advance), endanger (move back), protect (stay in the same place), miss a turn, and make an animal extinct (remove from board).
    advance 2 spaces (2 cards)
    advance 2 spaces (1 card)
    move back 2 spaces (4 cards)
    move back 3 spaces (4 cards)
    stay in the same place(3 cards)
    miss a turn (2 cards)
    remove from board (2 cards)
    remove from board (2 cards)
    remove from board (1 card)
  • 19 blue cards: these represent weather conditions that can help (advance) and harm (move back).
    advance 1 space (2 cards)
    advance 2 spaces (4 cards)
    advance 3 spaces (4 cards)
    move back 1 space (2 cards)
    move back 2 spaces (3 cards)
    move back 3 spaces (4 cards)
  • 30 green cards: these consist of
    If a player does not have a food card when an animal reaches the end of the board, the animal has starved and is extinct. (16 cards)
    If a player has 3 pollution cards, one of his or her animals becomes extinct and is removed from the board. Pollution cards are then shuffled back into the pile. (7 cards)
    Famine cards destroy food cards. When a player has a food card and a famine card at the same time, they cancel each other out and both must be shuffled back into the pile. (7 cards)

    Players keep the green cards until these problems send the cards back to the pile.

  1. Read and discuss the book "Brother Eagle, Sister Sky" by Susan Jeffers.
  2. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. Groups brainstorm should list how humans can make a positive or negative impact on animal survival. Also, list how weather or natural disasters can have a huge impact on animal survival.
  3. Play the board game Save an Animal.

Save an Animal game rules:
  1. Each person receives a set of three animal markers (or labeled discs). The goal of the game is to ensure that each of the animals survives (reaches the outside of the playing board with food).
  2. The game begins as animals are "born". For an animal to be "born", a player must roll a 6. The animal moves to the born space and starts from there. A player can play as many animals at one time as he or she wishes.
  3. Players take turns rolling the die. When someone lands on a colored space, he or she picks up the top card of that color (make sure card piles are shuffled well before starting).
  4. The game is over when there is only one person left who has animals still living on the board. The winner is the person who saves the most species from extinction by reaching the end of the board. If two players save the same number of species from extinction, the player who still has living animals on the board wins.
Save an Animal Game Board Diagram ( PRIVATE FILE 67kB Aug20 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

There is another book you could use that has to do with the human impact on animals and their habitat, but it has to do with the animals of a rain forest. It is called "The Great Kapok Tree" by Lynne Cherry.

I have had many discussions with my 4th graders about how humans impact our natural environment. I have read both of the books "Brother Eagle, Sister Sky" and "The Great Kapok Tree". They are both excellent picture books for upper elementary, and during the Elementary Biology/Environmental Science class, I was reminded about the importance of using literature in teaching science.

Although I have not used this activity board game before, it looks like a fun, engaging game to reinforce how animals might be affected by human activities or by possible natural disasters. Using the information in this engaging way may help the students' comprehension of this topic.


The students will list how an animal's habitat could be affected by human activity (positive and negative). Also they could list the natural disasters that could impact an animal's survival.


4.I.A. 1 and 3
Impact of human activities on the natural world

References and Resources