Design Challenge #2: Modifying a Game


Can you adapt an existing game to make it a focused teaching experience?


Teaching children about the habitats, behaviors and characteristics of animals.
Reading-age elementary school children.
Elementary school classrooms, particularly during free periods or group work.
How can a card game in the style of Apples to Apples be used to help children identify the different attributes associated with a variety of animals?


  1. Apples to Apples. Card game.


Children will learn about how animals forms and behaviors adapt them to their environments. Using Apples to Apples as a game, a rotating "judge" player will draw an animal card (just as the judge in A2A draws an adjective card). Other players will have, in their hands, traits of animals like color, climate preferences, mode of transport, diet, etc. Players will submit a trait that they think best matches the animal on the table. The judge will pick the traits he or she best thinks matches (maybe more than one, as opposed to one and only one in A2A). The animal and the traits are written down, possibly on a computer, for later discussion and comparison. As the rounds continue, players are encouraged, either on the worksheet on which the rounds are recorded or on the computer screen, to see which traits animals share in common, and start making inferences about similar creatures.

In addition to the inferences made about animals, each of the animal cards could be marked with brief descriptions that point to likely traits. Similarly, the trait cards could point toward animals that are more likely to possess them. This way, players wouldn't need to depend as much on prior knowledge and would be able to construct new knowledge within the confines of the game itself.

See attached desed2sketches.pdf for idea sketches.


The purpose of this game is to teach elementary school children about animals. Specifically, they will learn about how the animals are adapted to their environments by exploring these animals habitats, traits, and behaviors and finding commonalities with similar creatures.


StructureStructureThe game follows the same progression as Apples to Apples, except that the dealer can pick multiple winners per round and the progress of the game is tracked on a worksheet.

Each player starts out with 5 trait cards. The stack of animal cards is picked up by the dealer and the top card is laid face up on the table.

Each player submits a trait they think is most appropriate. The dealer selects as many cards as he or she thinks matches the animal and writes them down on the worksheet.

A variation I want to test is switching trait and animal cards, so that players hold animals and traits appear in the dealer's deck. I also want to game how many cards a dealer can pick (unlimited, limited to 2 or 3, only one) and see how this affects the game flow.


ModelThe model for this project is similar in many ways to that of Apples to Apples. For testing purposes, an equal amount of trait and animal cards were prodeuced, making switching the focus of the game (from animal to trait) as simple as switching decks.

Two versions of the worksheet were also produced, each version reflecting a different possible focus on animals or traits.

desed2sketches.pdf458.1 KB
desed2structure.pdf180.35 KB

Copyright Mike Edwards 2006-2009. All content available under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, unless otherwise noted.