Teaching Science

Jul 2016

Pterosaurs: The Card Game

Not birds! Not even dinosaurs! Pterosaurs were flying reptiles, and the first and largest vertebrates to fly under their own power.

Challenge your friends to this pterosaurs card game. Along the way, explore animals and plants that lived during the Mesozoic Era.

Pterosaurs: The Card Game uses images and information from the vast collections of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, especially the 2014 special exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs (amnh.org/pterosaurs). The game was co-designed with teenagers in the Museum’s #scienceFTW program and with game designer Nick Fortugno, based on an existing biodiversity card game, Phylo (phylogame.org).

A pre-built Phylo deck with excellent production values.

Linked in the grade 11 biology page.

Quark: a game of matter — Card Game

Exert your influence and guide the swirling mass of the smallest bits of matter back together to form sub-atomic particles while racing to build the biggest atom.

Quark is a lighter weight card game. Players have two actions each turn they can use to collect quarks, decay quarks down into other quarks, annihilate quarks for energy or to create particles.

At the end of the game, players score points for particles created, the best atom created and any energy they have left over.

A fairly simple game. Print-and-play, and free so it costs nothing to try it. The components are a bit basic for a finished game, but quite good for a playtest version (which I think this is).

Linked in the grade 12 modern physics page.

Quark Card Dealer Activity

Elementary particles, which make up everything in our world, have the amazing features that we cannot see in our daily life. One of the features is “color charges” which are compared to the three primary colors of red, green and blue. Playing the card game, you can understand the color charges intuitively and enjoy the world of elementary particle physics. The elementary particle “quark” is explained by the Quantum Chromodynamics which is abbreviated as QCD. The card game “Quark Card Dealer” is named after the abbreviation.

This print-and-play card activity, translated from the Japanese, is a bit odd — but some of your students might like it.

Linked in the grade 12 modern physics page.

Go Extinct! Card Game

From the Kickstarter page:

Go Extinct! is a revolutionary evolutionary card game for humans aged 8 and up. The game set includes a deck of 54 beautifully-illustrated animal cards and a simplified, yet accurate, evolutionary tree board used for reference during play. Teaches humans 8 and up how to read evolutionary trees with gorgeous original artwork.

Just like Go Fish, gameplay involves asking other players for cards in order to complete sets of animal groups. When the player has the card requested, the card must be handed over. When the player does not, however, they say…


At the end of the game, all of the cards are organized into scientific clades, or sets of animals that share a common ancestor. By playing a strategically engaging, yet familiar style of card game, players learn about evolutionary trees and the evidence used to classify land vertebrates. See? You can compete with your friends AND have fun learning science AT THE SAME TIME.

Steam Galaxy has educational pricing, but even cooler one of the Kickstarter stretch goals was a free educational print-and-play version! It’s gorgeous, and gives you explicit permission to make and modify your own versions for classroom use.

This is a fun little game. Check it out.

Linked in the grade 11 biology page.

Keep Cool Board Game

I haven’t been able to find a copy of this yet, but I’m looking for one. Keep Cool is a German strategy board game about climate change, designed by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Does global climate politics anger you? Do you want to make a difference? In KEEP COOL you’re a “global player”. You try to advance your own economic interests, while at the same time strong lobby groups like the oil industry or environmental groups affect whether you win or lose. When it’s your turn you decide whether to collaborate in protecting the environment or do what’s best for your own interests. You risk droughts, floods and health pandemics, but could stand to benefit from prosperity and a stable global climate. The winner is the first player to achieve their aim. But, if you’re not careful, all players could lose.

The KEEP COOL board game is bilingual German/English and can be played by children and adults of 12 and above. Supervised sessions work well with younger children.

It's pretty expensive (30€ plus shipping from Germany), but if you have connections it looks like it’s well worth playing. (This is now the third edition, which says something about both the game and the issue.)

Linked in the grade 10 climate page.

Cool It! Card Game

I haven't had a chance to try this one yet, but it looks interesting:

Cool It! is the new card game from UCS that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter.

The game enables teachers and parents to talk about global warming in a fun and hopeful way. Kids, meanwhile, will learn that all of us make choices that determine whether the world warms a little or a lot, and which of those choices reduce global warming emissions.

The game requires at least three or four players (more can be added with additional decks) and is appropriate for ages eight and up. To win, a player must collect a certain number of "solution" cards in the categories of energy, transportation, and forests; players can slow each others' progress by playing "problem" cards in those same categories.

UCS staff worked with a science educator to refine the game and produce an elementary and middle school teachers' guide. A prototype of the game was tested at several elementary schools.

Play is pretty simple (the game is aimed at ages 8 to adult), but it looks like it might make a good activity to spark discussion about coping with climate change.

Linked in the grade 10 climate page.

Gutsy Card Game

From the American Museum of Natural History:

A game about the microbes that make you... you!

Each of us has a community of microbes that lives in our digestive system. Scientists call this community our gut microbiome. It plays many important roles in our bodies, like helping to digest food, regulating our immune system, preventing diseases, and even affecting our appetites and our emotions.

Many things, like what we eat and drink, who we interact with, and the medicines that we take, influence the kinds of microbes that live in our gut. A diverse microbiome is good for our health!

A simple print-and-play game that reinforces the diversity of our microbiome.

The 54 card deck can be printed on card stock and cut out. A card back is provided as a full-bleed page, which means that you don't have to worry about registration problems when making the deck. Playing time is 15-30 minutes.

Linked in the grade 11 biology page.

Phylo Card Game


Phylo is a project that began as a reaction to the following nugget of information: Kids know more about Pokemon creatures than they do about real creatures*. We think there’s something wrong with that. Apparently, so do many others.


Phylo is: (1) a card game that makes use of the wonderful, complex, and inspiring things that inform the notion of biodiversity; (2) an exercise in crowd sourcing, open access, and open game development; and (3) FREAKIN’ AWESOME!


The phylo project is the product of the kind and (frankly) amazing contributions of many many individuals who have given art, science expertise, gaming advice, programming chops, and more. A card usually begins its life by someone submitting art to a Flickr pool, but you can also develop new games, help out with programming, or providing general feedback by leaving comments on the blog or forum.


You can start quickly by printing yourself a deck and checking out a set of rules. Alternatively, you can just collect and print the cards by going to the card section and “select”ing the ones you like. We’re starting to amass a wide variety of different decks, some of which are high quality and available for purchase!

This is a really cool-looking project, spearheaded by David Ng at the UBC Office of Learning Technologies. Check out the web site (http://phylogame.org) for a history of the project, printable card decks, and more information on the project.

Linked in the grade 9 biology page and grade 11 biology page.

Top Female Scientists Card Game

This neat game was designed by Hannah Wakeford and Simon Clark, a couple of post-grads at the University of Exeter.

There are 32 in total across maths, physics, biology, chemistry and geology - where each card has characteristics of Innovation, Impact, Obscurity and Badassery as well as a short biography. We hope that while the public will enjoy playing the game and hopefully learn about the scientists covered, our real goal is for the cards to be used as a classroom tool - specifically to encourage girls to engage with science. Many girls are put off studying science at school because they perceive it to be a very male-dominated subject, and one problem in particular is that they seem unaware of the female heritage in science. Most people can't name more than 5 or 6 famous female scientists, and yet some stellar women have contributed so much to our understanding of science. So we wanted to try and correct that.

I am really proud of these cards and I think that they are a great way to get students of any gender involved in science. There is a huge history of scientists that we are not aware of and this is just scratching the surface of some of the most amazing scientists that have graced our world.

The link takes you to their web site, where you can listen to their podcast, watch a promo video, and download a free copy of the game.

Linked in the grade 9 general science page and grade 10 general science page.

Women in Science Card Game

An original, fun and educational card game.

  • Familiarizes players with remarkable, often unknown, women of science.
  • Offers inspiring role models for kids (girls, but boys too!)
  • 20% of profits are donated to organizations promoting women in science.

The game is composed of 54 beautiful cards in a full color tuck-box. You can play our strategic game based on the card colors or play any standard 52-cards game using the top left logo. The artwork was hand drawn by French illustrator Fran6co (Francis Collie).

This is an amusing game. It doesn't really teach a science subject, but it’s a fun way to pass a few minutes, and does a bit to overcome persistent gender bias. Luanna Games have a free print-and-play version if you want to try it out.

In essence, you try to collect ‘labs’ of four scientists in the same discipline. The first player to get three labs wins. Clones act as wild cards, and special cards let you recruit people from other players’ labs. The disciplines are: engineering/physics/astronomy, biology/medicine, ecology/earth science, math/computer science, and psychoanalysis/social science.

I question some of the design choices, which lend a lot of weight to ‘soft’ fields. There are four psychoanalysts to three physicists, for example. Rather than lump physics in with engineering and astronomy, I would have preferred leaving out psychoanalysis entirely and using the cards to add more women in physics and chemistry.

That said, this is better than nothing. It would be easy enough to kit-bash the print-and-play version to eliminate psychoanalysis and leave room for more interesting people; in fact, that would make a good class project.

Linked in the grade 9 general science page and grade 10 general science page.

Erosion Card Game

A nice little card game about orogeny and erosion. Compress the formation of the Himalayas into 30 minutes with Erosion! Links to the creator’s web site which has presentations and lab activities, as well as to the Yahoo Group which has a copy of the rules.

Linked in the grade 12 earth & space science page.

Delight Board Game

An educational board game for 2 or any even number of players (in 2 teams) based on the concepts of current electricity. Targeted at high school / junior college physics students, Delight is a fun way of practising the use of physics concepts such as:
  • electrical power P=V2R
  • the potential divider rule
  • wires bypassing a device short-circuits it
This game can be easily printed on A4 paper and the game pieces can be cut up for use.

Useful as a review activity, scoring requires students to understand the concepts. If you're handy it should be possible to make a modular board with actual circuits and light bulbs so students can see the bulbs light up (or not).

Linked in the grade 9 physics page.

soft landing Board Game

soft landing is a boardgame for today. Each player controls a nation or group of nations, and is trying to keep their own people happy in a world of declining resources and escalating calamities.

You can work towards new era tech to help solve the world's various problems, or try to simply have the most stuff when it all falls apart due to Catastrophes. And you can win either way. Political crises, ecological disasters, economic meltdowns, all are things your nation's lifestyle can contribute to. Do you work to solve the problems, or simply shift the blame and hope the cost falls on someone else?

The mix of nations, number of players and personal strategies makes for a lot of replay potential. Backstab, manipulate, cooperate or do all three. soft landing is not a preachy game. You simply make the choices that best move you towards your goals, whatever those goals might be. Your ethics (or lack of them) only matter in the context of everyone else's choices, making it a Prisoner's Dilemma on a global scale.

soft landing is a downloaded boardgame, but it is pretty easy to put together and is as high in graphic quality as any store-bought game. It even has a template for a print-your-own box to store it in. You can get a free, screen-readable version of the rules by clicking here.

This game is too complicated to play in a single class. It can be tweaked to make an asynchronous game suitable for playing over the course of the unit, with students forming teams for each bloc in the game.

Linked in the grade 10 climate page.