Hungry Birds EDU
by Digital Glass/Michigan State University

Price at time of review: $depends on size of institution
Digital Glass
Columbus, OH

Grade Level: 1-7

Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology

An exciting interactive game called Hungry Birds EDU may soon be on its way to a big screen near you.There are two versions of the game available. One is designed for museums and other large public places and costs vary depending on size of monitors and numbers of visitors. The other version is a free app and plays on an Apple iPad.

Most schools and parents will probably opt for the free iPad version. The large version runs on a game wall 7 feet by 12 feet and the monitors alone may cost over 100 thousand dollars.To rent the game on this large configuration costs about 10 thousand dollars per month. Smaller screens cost less to buy and the program less to lease. Many configuration/usage options are available, but for schools the free iPad version will be most attractive. Once the game is downloaded from the App Store and installed, it is very simple to start and after a very brief introduction to begin playing.

The good thing about this game is that it is quick (one minute time limit) but allows a good ecological and evolutionary principle to be experienced. Every student of biology probably remembers the story of the peppered moth in England. In the moth population there were always two color morphs—one light and one dark. During the pre–industrial days, most moths were light in color, which allowed them to blend and hide on the light colored stones and trees. The darker moths had a much higher predation factor. The industrial revolution occurred and there was a lot of soot and other pollutants deposited on buildings and trees. So what had been difficult to see, the light colored moths, became easier to see.The converse happened for the dark colored moths—they were not as easy to see on the darker trees. This shifted the percentage of moths from mostly light in pre–industrial revolution to mostly dark post–industrial revolution. Within the population both color morphs continue to exist.

While the idea seems logical in the abstract, the iPad application brings theory and realism together in the form of a game. The player acts as a bird flying through a forest with both light and dark colored moths present. An environment shift corresponding to the Industrial Revolution happens halfway through the one minute game time and the tree appearance changes—from light to dark. The game keeps track of the various color moths “eaten” and on which trees. There are great learning experiences which can occur from playing the game over and over. At a minute per play, a lot of iterations can happen in a short period of time. There are numerous other activities that can spin off this little game app.

On the website of the game creator, Digital Glass, there are some lesson plans and other teaching aids provided. This is a great little app that is useful in its simplicity. It can be played by various ages and the depth of the environmental and genetic discussions can vary, depending on the users’ sophistication. It was designed primarily for 5–12 year–olds but works for both older and younger. There are several drawbacks in the application that are apparent; one is that it needs to be played on an iPad and these might not be readily available. A second potential annoyance is that the birds flying through the forest have only one speed—fast. But these are minor things for the value to students studying ecological change or genetics. Hungry Birds EDU is a good app to have available in the classroom. It would probably work best if every class member had an iPad, but it could easily be a part of a lab activity even if there is only one iPad available. At a cost of free, there is no reason for a teacher or parent not to try it.

Review posted on 8/12/2014

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