A Pokémon-like card game is one of the best ways to teach people about species and ecosystems, more effective than traditional tools like books or slideshows, according to new research.
The game, Phylo Trading Card Game, was launched in 2010 by a group of scientists in response to the finding that kids know more about Pokémon creatures than they do about real animals. The project has since created hundreds of free, downloadable playing cards that feature species and various ecosystem events, such as a red tide or disease outbreak.
“Participants who played the Phylo game weren’t just remembering iconic species like the blue whale and sea otter, but things like phytoplankton, zooplankton and mycorrhizal fungi,” Meggie Callahan, a PhD candidate who studies humans’ relationship with nature at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the new research, said in a statement. “They would say things like, ‘I really needed this card because it was the base of my ecosystem,’ or, ‘When my partner destroyed my phytoplankton it killed all of my chain of species.’ Obviously, the game is sending a strong message that is sticking with them.”
Those who played the Phylo Game improved their understanding of ecosystem dynamics and remembered more species than those who were shown slideshows. They were also more motivated to donate any money they won from playing to environmental causes. The findings were published this month in the journal Palgrave Communications.
“The message for teachers is that we need to use all possible ways to engage the public and get them interested in and caring about the issues of species extinctions and ecosystem destructions,” said Callahan.