Predator/Prey (also known as the Survival Game or the Game of Life)
This is a complicated game but very worthwhile for teaching the girls the basics of ecology and the food chain. In the introduction to the game, you should talk about the relationship between herbivorous (plant-eating), omnivorous (everything-eating) and carnivorous (meat-eating) animals. You should also talk about some possible strategies that the three different types of animals use to survive in nature. More will become clear as I describe the basic set-up below.
Materials: 30 "Herbivore" life-rings (described below), 10 "Omnivore" life-rings, 5 "Carnivore" life-rings, 5 water stations, 5 food stations, 45 file cards, a whistle, a water gun, brown, green and red face paint
(These instructions are for a game with 50 players... if you have a different number of players try to keep the ratios of the different types of animals the same.)
The Set-up: The life rings basically show each player how many lives they have left. Herbivores get 10 lives each, omnivores 5 lives, and carnivores 2. What we found worked best for the life rings were to take coloured pieces of Bristol board, punch a hole in them, and thread them on to a pipe cleaner. Herbivores got 10 green cards, omnivores got 5 brown cards, and carnivores got 2 red cards. If you wish to use this game a number of times, I recommend waterproofing the cards with Mac-Tac or laminating. This also makes them more durable. On each life-ring there should also be attached one white file card.
The food and water stations are easily made out of a bright piece of construction paper or Bristol board, with the word "food" or "water" written on them. Attached to the station sign is a crayon on a string. Make sure that each station has a different colour crayon attached. When the players visit the food and water stations, they mark their file card with the crayon to prove they found it.
The play area should be as large as possible. Scatter the food and water stations throughout the play area, and try to make at least two of them very difficult to find. Use the face paint to mark each player and identify them as either herbivore (green paint), omnivore (brown paint) or carnivore (red paint).
The Rules: This is a survival game. Therefore, the only way to "win" is to still be alive at the end of the game. Each type of animal (herbivore, omnivore and carnivore) has different needs which must be met in order to survive. Send the Herbivores out into the play area first, and give them at least a 10-minute head start on the others. The herbivores must find all the food and water stations in order to survive. Next, send out the omnivores. They must find all the water stations and at least two food stations. They must also catch at least four herbivores in order to survive. Herbivores are caught by being tagged, at which point the omnivore (or carnivore) takes one card from their life-ring. Carnivores are sent out next. They must find all the water stations and must catch at least ten other animals (can be either herbivores or omnivores).
At this point you should have 5 players left, unmarked. Send four of them out as Fire, Flood, Famine and Cold. These girls can tag any animal and take one life-card at a time. Their goal is to kill as many animals as possible. The last girl is given the water gun. She is Man. Man can hunt any animal and doesn't have to tag them to catch them: if she can hit them with water from the gun the animal is considered caught and must give Man as many life-cards as Man requests. Man can take all of the life-cards of any animal she catches except for the very last one. When an animal runs out of lives, she is out of the game and should return to the start point.
Let the game run for at least an hour, and longer if possible. At the end, call all the girls back with the whistle. You should also have a group discussion about the different strategies used by the players to survive. It is always interesting to find out what strategies the survivors of the game used, and to try and apply them to real life. For example: one time I ran the game we had a Carnivore whose strategy was to hide by one of the water stations, wait for other animals to come by, and ambush them. Lions, crocodiles and other top predators often use this strategy in nature! Neato!
You can also have one player circulate as Rabies or Disease. This girl should be equipped with a number of yellow Bristol board cards. When she tags a player, she takes one of their life cards and replaces it with a yellow card. When the infected player tags another animal, she can take two life-cards, and passes on her rabies card. Conversely, if the infected player is tagged by another animal, she can take one of her attacker's life-cards and passes on the rabies card. When the game is over, include in your discussion the effects of diseases on animals.
If you want to make the game really complicated, name all your animals! For example: in the Herbivores you can have Deer, Rabbit, Squirrel, etc., in the Omnivores you can have Raccoon, Skunk, Bear, etc., and in Carnivores you can use Wolf, Owl, etc. As part of the survival game the players must find the mate of their species and trade some sort of "reproduction card". In your discussion afterwards, talk about the risks and dangers animals must face in the wild as they try to find a mate and reproduce.