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SIMULATING AN ENVIRONMENT

After dividing our class into groups of five students each, you students can each decide what kind of bird he or she would like to "be." We have 10 different colors of construction paper. Taking turns, each group can punch holes in it so that each group has ten dots each of ten different colors. For those of you who can't multiply, that means each group gets 100 dots, made of ten different colors. Each group has one square yard (or meter, or if in France, metre) of multi-colored fabric. Each square of fabric is in a different pattern of colors, so that none of them is like any of the others.

The fabric simulates (means pretends to be or to be like, pronounced "SIMM-you-lates") an environment. The dots simulate seeds. By simulating birds, wind, and farmers (each at different times), the students will complete the small ecosystem we are building.

Before pretending to be birds, let's pretend to be the wind, and sprinkle your seeds throughout your environment, making sure that the seeds aren't on top of each other. Now, the birds come along and each bird "eats" (removes) ten seeds. WE DO NOT ACTUALLY EAT THE DOTS, NOR DO WE EVEN PUT THEM NEAR OUR MOUTHS. We have little bags for them.

Now you are farmers. Each group places the fifty remaining seeds in a long line on a sheet of paper. (This is like planting a row of seeds.) Each seed will grow, and produce another seed of its own kind. To simulate this, move a second dot of the same color beside each of the dots. Since many of the "seeds" were "eaten," some of the pretend "plants" can't reproduce.

Allow the wind to plant those seeds in their environment again, and then let the birds each eat five seeds. Be farmers, and plant the seeds that are left onto the row of white paper. Move seeds of the same color to places beside a "parent" plant, and notice which seeds can't reproduce.

Make a determination of any relationship between the colors of the seeds that were left and their visibility on their environment. If most of the seeds that are left are similar in color to the fabric-land where they were planted, it might tell us that birds eat the seeds they can most easily see, because of their colors. Make a histogram of the results by gluing the left-over dots to graph paper, and compare each histogram to those of other groups, along with the colors of each groups' environment.

We also know that birds select seeds by their aroma, flavor, and size. Try to make a game where these factors can be simulated.

This same game can be played using dots to simulate whole plants that might be eaten by animals, such as cows, deer, goats, and people.

This game can be played the same way, only the dots simulate flowers, and the students pretend to be bees or other insects that fly to the flowers in the environments to get nectar. When a bee goes to a flower, the flower is removed and put into an envelope. After each student has "pollinated" and removed ten flowers, shake the remaining flowers (dots) into a bowl.

Plant the fifty pollinated flowers (from the envelope) into a line, and allow them to reproduce their own kind, just as you did with the seeds.

Glue the dots to graph paper to make a histogram of the results, and compare them with those of each group. The flowers that survived and reproduced their own kind did so because they attracted insects who helped pollinate them. Scientists believe that pollinating insects choose particular flowers based on their fragrance and colors. This is called "natural selection."

Over time, the flowers that are not selected as often might develop some of the qualities that caused the insects to be drawn to the flowers that were selected frequently.

Scientists further believe that all organisms are naturally selected in similar ways and that this "natural selection" brings about changes in all organisms over time.

It is similar to the manner in which animals develop survival traits. We will study this at a later time.

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