Teaching Science

grade 9

Biome Builder Card Game

In Biome Builder, your mission as an ecologist in training is to build a food chain from plants to apex predators- think algae to great white shark in the ocean. A biome is a community of plants and animals unique to a habitat. In this game you have 4 different habitats in which you start building a biome: the Amazon Rainforest, the Sahara Desert, the Pacific Ocean, and the American Prairie.

Everyone in the habitat has a job that helps make their environment a great place to live. In this game that job is eating… Stack plants and animals to build a food hierarchy and the player with the highest banked stacks wins!

This fast paced game is 2-4 player and takes 15 minutes to play. Each player creates food chains (biomes) in four different environments and banks their biomes for points. After going through the entire deck the player with the highest set of banked biomes wins.

Each player has two fields to build their biomes in and may bank a biome at any time. Each biome begins with a plant card. After a plant you must play a herbivore and omnivore. Then players can play predators and apex predator cards. Cards are labeled from 1-5 (plant to apex predator) and an ideal stack goes from 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5, but that is not required to bank a stack. If someone stacks all cards from 1-5 they get an additional 10 points when adding scores. What kind of biomes will you build?

I backed this game on Kickstarter because it looked intriguing. It’s aimed at children younger than our grade nines, but the simple rules make it easy and fast to play. At the high school level I'd make the game a class project, dividing the students into teams to design cards for different biomes. In Ontario that might be Boreal Forest, Freshwater Lake, Deciduous Forest, and Tundra.

Linked in the grade 9 biology unit.

Upstream Board Game

Welcome to the wild. Welcome to Upstream: A game about the natural cycle of life.

Like every spring, the melted snow fills the riverbeds, opening the way back home for the Salmon, after a life swimming in the oceans… Each player controls a bank of salmons swimming upstream to lay their eggs where they were born. During their journey they will face hungry bears, fierce birds of prey, as well as patient fishermen, which they must avoid in order to survive. These are not the only hazards the Salmons must face, as each round of play the strength of the water flow will cause some pieces of the river to fall back, making it impossible for some fishes to keep their way upstream.

Upstream is an eurotrash-style game of tile placement and grid movement through an action point allowance system for 2 to 5 players of ages 6 and up. Games last around 20 minutes.

This lovely little game gives players a good idea of the dangers salmon face as they head upstream to spawn. It plays quickly so is easy for students to write (and test) new rules to add additional dangers for the salmon to overcome, such as dams, chemical spills, sport and commercial fishing, and so on.

At €25 it’s a tad expensive, especially when you add shipping from Europe, but the artwork is wonderful.

2 Tomatoes Games is currently making a print-and-play version available for free, which is very generous of them.

Linked in the grade 9 biology unit.

Snowbirds Card Game

Winter is coming, and your flock of snow geese must make their annual migration south. Your objective is to guide your flock from North to South, along a series of randomly constructed journeys. At each location, you will need to make the best use of your limited actions to keep your flock healthy, well-fed, and always on the move. Success depends on balancing the resources available against the risks of the journey.

Action cards may be played for one of several purposes, but as single-use resources, must be balanced against competing needs. Will you forage for food, or fly on an empty belly? Each flight brings a roll of the dice, and a risk of exhaustion, which you can offset by sacrificing future flights. Exhaustion and hunger always loom. Your goal is to reach the South before running out of actions, before your flock is too worn out to continue.

Can you fly them all home?

This interesting little game by Brian Garthwaite is a free print-and-play card game made available under a Creative Commons license. It seems simple: fly your flock of geese south, but you have a limited number of action cards and, like real geese, must make trade-offs to reach your destination. There is one expansion currently available with more in the works.

There are a number of computer simulations out there, but I confess I have a weakness for old-fashioned paper simulations, as they often promote a deeper understanding. This little game is worth a look. A cool class project might be adding specific map cards representing actual locations near your school.

The basic game is a solitaire game. The first expansion, Sunset Skies, adds rules for a two-player game in which players must cooperate and compete to finish their migration.

The game is currently hosted on Board Game Geek, a web site devoted to non-computer games. You will have to create an account to download the files, but it’s free — and while you’re there you might find other free print-and-play games to enjoy!

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

Space Race: The Card Game

The world struggles in the Cold War, and many see the sky as the next battlefield. The era of the space race has just begun. Do you have what it takes to lead a budding space agency into a new age of human achievement?

Each game is completely different and there’s no definite winning strategy. You can play it over and over again, and with a playing time of about 40 minutes, you’ll get to have plenty of shots at conquering the universe.

Space Race: The Card Game is an indie card game in which 1-4 players become directors of space agencies trying to conquer the universe. The game is fast, yet complex and strategic, based on synergies and combo construction.

This limited-print game is available for free as a print-and-play card game, which I’d definitely recommend for classroom use as the very-high-quality print game costs €50 (with the Intercosmos expansion, which is currently on Kickstarter).

This may be too complicated for some students, but those used to Euro-style games (like Settlers of Catan) will be able to understand the rules — especially if they can borrow a copy of the rulebook. Once the rules are understood a game takes less than an hour, making this usable in the classroom.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Element Bingo

A simple set of bingo cards for the first 20 elements, plus 11 others that we often use (like copper, silver, and iron). Contains 200 bingo cards, element chits to draw from a hat, and a caller’s card to keep track of what you’ve called.

Linked on both the grade 9 and grade 10 chemistry units.

Minute Earth: How to Build a Better City

This short two minute video from MinuteEarth takes a quick look at urban design, and how North American cities are not as ecologically friendly as European ones.

Linked in the grade 9 biology unit.

Minute Earth: How To (Literally) Save Earth

Farming erodes soil 50 times faster than it forms. We can change that, but will we?

This short three minute video from MinuteEarth looks at soil formation and degradation, especially the effects of farming practices on soil, and suggests a few sustainable farming techniques that would help.

Linked in the grade 9 biology unit.

States of Matter Game

A simple card game designed to reinforce states of matter and phase transitions. Cards represent either states of matter or phase transitions.

Players race to be the first to empty their hand, laying down state and transition cards in the correct sequence.

This print-and-play game is formatted to be printed on prepunched business card stock, making it fast to print a class set of games.

Linked in the grade 9 chemistry unit.

Here Comes Science: Music DVD and CD

Here Comes Science is a DVD/CD set of songs about science. The video for “Meet the Elements” was featured on boingboing.net, while the legendary rock version of “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)” finally gets a fully realized studio reading, and even it’s own answer song. Danny Weinkauf contributes “I Am A Paleontologist” which would be used in the soundtrack to a national television campaign.

Science Is Real
Meet The Elements
I Am A Paleontologist w/ Danny Weinkauf
The Bloodmobile
Electric Car w/ Robin Goldwasser
My Brother The Ape
What Is A Shooting Star?
How Many Planets?
Why Does The Sun Shine?
Why Does The Sun Really Shine?
Roy G. Biv
Put It To The Test
Speed And Velocity w/ Marty Beller
Computer Assisted Design
Solid Liquid Gas
Here Comes Science
The Ballad Of Davy Crockett (In Outer Space)

The songs may be silly children’s songs, but the science is real. I show some of the videos while I'm waiting for the class to arrive.

Linked in the grade 9 science, grade 10 science, and grade 11 kinematics pages.

Rare Earth: Chemical Element Card Game

From cute little Hydrogen to heroic Meitnerium to mysterious Ununoctium, chemical element cartoon characters are bonding together, mixing-it-up and raiding each other’s Labs to capture Protons in this exciting card game.

With the
Rare Earth Chemical Element Card Game, every child has fun learning the fundamentals of Chemistry, Great for Science classrooms and entertaining for kids and families, players win by combining chemical element cards.

This game is built around forming binary ionic compounds. Bonding a new compound gets you an energy card, which lets you mix an alloy. Forming a compound or allow also lets you steal a compound or allow from one of your opponents.

An expansion pack is available that adds cards to make a complete periodic table.

The rules include several variants, making it suitable for different grades. For the basic game you don't need to know any chemistry — it’s built into the rules. I would start with the simplest version (intended for children) and add complexity if the class likes the game.

Rare Earth is designed for 2-6 players, so the average classroom would need 5-6 sets. Fortunately, there’s a classroom price: six sets plus an expansion pack for the price of five, with free shipping.

LeapCloud is a Canadian company, which makes shipping a lot more reasonable than it is for many products (and free if you order two products at once).

Linked in the grade 9 chemistry unit and grade 10 chemistry unit.

In Our Time: Johannes Kepler

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630). Although he is overshadowed today by Isaac Newton and Galileo, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists in history. The three laws of planetary motion Kepler developed transformed people's understanding of the Solar System and laid the foundations for the revolutionary ideas Isaac Newton produced later. Kepler is also thought to have written one of the first works of science fiction. However, he faced a number of challenges. He had to defend his mother from charges of witchcraft, he had few financial resources and his career suffered as a result of his Lutheran faith.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

In Our Time: The Kuiper Belt

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Food Forest Card Game

Food Forest is a unique, fun deck of cards that can be used to play games based on natural, organic gardening. Food Forest games help adults and children understand how plants interact - both in a garden and in the wild. Players learn about companion planting, the layers of a forest, beneficial insects, and principles of permanent agriculture, or Permaculture.

This deck comes with instructions for two games that can be played with the cards. More games can be found online, and you can even design your own! This deck is also an inspiring tool for designing your own food forest.

This is an excellent fit for the ecology unit. Although the plants are those found in New England, that’s similar enough to Ontario for many of our students — and there are blank cards so you can add local plants if you want.

The game is available in both hard copy and print-and-play versions.

Linked in the grade 9 biology page.

PhyloBoreal Card Game

PhyloBoreal is an ecosystem card game about the boreal forest. Players use their cards to build and cause disturbances to a communal food web. The winner is the player who gains the most species points by creating a stable and diverse food web.

PhyloBoreal is a customized version of a card game called Phylo developed at the University of British Columbia. PhyloBoreal was designed by yours truly, Elly and Jonathan, because we think the boreal forest is a landscape of incredible beauty, importance, and diversity. We hope you will too!

The price of this game covers only the cost required to produce each deck—no profit is made. Please consider donating, or at least signing the petition at Boreal Birds Need Half [
www.borealbirds.org] to help protect the boreal forest!

The artwork on these cards is top-notch, and as much of Ontario is covered by boreal forest this game could easily find a place in the ecology unit.

The special action cards in PhyoBoreal include stewardship as well as exploitation, adding a political dimension to the game. Can you use Legislation to counter a Pipeline or Road? Play the game and see how it works out!

Linked in the grade 9 biology page.

Xtronaut: A Space Exploration Game

Do you have what it takes to put together a space mission and race through the solar system? Identify your mission target and put together the right combination of rocket parts and spacecraft to achieve mission success.

Each player selects a Mission Card from the deck. This card determines the player’s mission — the mission destination, type of spacecraft needed, the amount of Delta-V needed to achieve the mission, the potential to obtain gravity assists, and the points earned for completing the mission. Each player needs to collect the Playing Cards that give them the right spacecraft, first and second stage rockets, and matching fairings. Gravity assist and solid rocket booster cards are available to provide additional Delta-V if needed to complete the assigned mission. Once the mission is complete, the player earns the points for the mission, which varies based on the size of the spacecraft and the target, and starts work on their next mission. The Action Cards add real-life issues to the game that space missions often encounter — project cancellations, audits, government shutdowns, and other exciting twists and turns.

XTRONAUT®: The Game of Solar System Exploration is a board game that is easy to learn, and gives 2 – 4 players ages 7 and up the chance to develop space missions, build authentic rocket systems, and explore the solar system. Designed by Professor leading major NASA OSIRIS-REx space mission, the game is fun and engaging, but also exposes players to space science concepts related to planning and undertaking a real space mission — complete with full color education workbook that explains game scientific concepts.

I haven’t tried this in the classroom myself, as I haven’t taught grade 9 science since I bought it, but it’s a fun game. The play is simple and a four person game takes about half an hour.

You could also use it solo as a tool for designing missions: students could sort through the cards and select the parts they need, looking at the tradeoffs between different options.

Linked in the grade 9 space page.

ION: A Compound Building Game

ION: A Compound Building Game is a simple card drafting game where players select from a number of available ion cards and noble gas cards, with the objective of forming either neutrally charged compounds or sets of stable noble gases.

How to Play
Each player is initially dealt eight cards. They choose one card and pass the remaining to the player on their left, while they receive the same amount of cards from the player on their right (this is commonly referred to as “card drafting” or “pick and pass”).

Selected cards must be either (1) bonded to another ion or (2) set alone. Players only score points for neutrally balanced cards. So a positive charged Sodium (Na+) bonding with a negatively charge Chloride (Cl-), forming a neutral NaCl compound. would score points.

Points are scored at the end of each round and player may gain additional points for building specific compounds listed on the goal cards for that round. After three rounds the player with the most points wins!

The game comes with multiple expansions including a Transition Metals expansion, a Polyatomic Ion expansion, and a Radioactive Card expansion.

This game take a different approach to my own Ionicompounds game.

Linked in the grade 9 chemistry page and the grade 10 chemistry 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.

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.

New Grade 9 Resource

New Grade 9 Resource

New Grade 9 & 10 Chemistry Resources

New Grade 9 Resources

  • Added a link to the BBC documentary Chemistry: A Volatile History, linked in the chemistry unit.

New Grade 10 Resources

  • Added a link to the BBC documentary Chemistry: A Volatile History, linked in the chemistry unit.

New Grade 9 Resource

New Resource

New Resources

New Resources

  • Added links to the Structure of the Sun Model and Lunar Globe Model files, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added links to the Moving Copernican System & Moving Ptolemaic System Models files, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added link to the Planisphere file, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added link to NASA’s Universe Spacecraft Paper Models collection, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added link to the Subaru Telescope Model file, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added links to the Hydroelectric Power Plant Model and Wind Turbine Model files, linked in the Grade 9 physics unit.
  • Added the Lab Safety Tableaux file, linked in the Grade 10 chemistry unit.
  • Added links to the Animal Cell Model and Plant Cell Model files, linked in the Grade 10 biology unit.
  • Added links to the Hydroelectric Power Plant Model and Wind Turbine Model files, linked in the Grade 11 E&M unit.
  • Added links to the Animal Cell Model, Plant Cell Model, and Cyanobacteria Cell Model files, linked in the other science courses page.