Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More than I ever wanted to know about black bears

I am developing a math/science game for 2nd-3rd graders about bears.

A month ago, when I received the assignment to develop a math game, it seemed like a great idea to combine some science (facts about black bears) and math (word problems at a 2nd/3rd grade level) because well black bears are just generally cool.

Right now I'm struggling with coming up with more and more and more word problems because what fun is a game if you know the answers already?

The real reason I'm thinking about taking this game beyond my graduate classroom has a lot to do with more and more reports of bears walking through suburban neighborhoods and the crossover between people and wild animals as a result of sprawl.  I want kids to understand some really important concepts: most wild animals don't seek out to attack humans.  A lot of times they will walk away.  In fact, bears are shy solitary omnivores that prefer a more vegetarian diet (berries and such), but are highly adaptable and will protect themselves and families at all costs.  So if that as more suburbs expand out into former farmlands and forests, there is less space for these beautiful creatures to attend to their basic needs of food and shelter.  Human garbage can be pretty tasty and that beautiful view you have backed up to conservation land... guess what, that's home to furry creatures that don't understand the concept of property lines the way we do.

So if kids have the option of learning a little math while learning some basic facts about bears, maybe they'll understand that we all need our space and need to find a way to make this work.  I don't have all the answers - no where near that reality; however, maybe one of the kids coming through a classroom of mine will and what will inspire them will be, "What?!  Bears are nearsighted but have an acute sense of hearing and smell to compensate for that?  What if we did this to keep them out of human back yards?"  Or maybe it will be that kid who looks at abandoned buildings in a city and figure out how to convert it into viable housing and commercial projects that include sustainable food growing options rather than spreading further out.

You never know.  But it has to start somewhere and right now it means writing about 50 more questions about bears so I can turn this board game in tonight for a grade.

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