The whole deck is wild in this new game

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Two kids play one of five card games included in What in the Wild. Image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

By Kara Headley

“What in the Wild” is a new card game designed to teach elementary students about Michigan wildlife in a unique and fun way.

The game contains 120 cards featuring plant and animal species and the food, water, habitat and space requirements of each. Five games can be played with the deck that  the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently released.

The game follows the agency’s curriculum for K-5, but it is designed for anyone living in Michigan or elsewhere in the United States.

“The game is a bridge between nature and urban and suburban environments,” said Karen Cleveland, a DNR wildlife biologist and creator of “What in the Wild.”

The game teaches children about Michigan wildlife in a nonconventional way.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re learning something, so it is easier to want to learn the stuff,”  Cleveland said. “Playing games where you’re exposed to information repeatedly helps you remember.”

Amelia Gotwals, an associate professor of science education at Michigan State University, studies how kids learn science. She builds tools for engaging kindergarten and first grade students.

A family plays What in the Wild. Image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

“I’m always excited when there are ways to get kids engaged in science,” Gotwals said. “One thing we are trying to push in science education is the move from kids learning science to kids discovering science. This game could be a tool in the overarching learning process.”

The goal of the game is to get children excited about nature, Cleveland said. She sent a prototype to an elementary school teacher who played it with his family. Afterwards, the teacher took his kids into the backyard to see what wildlife they could recognize from the game.

“Seeing that level of excitement about an educational game is magic,” Cleveland said.

So far, the reviews are positive.

“Whether you’re looking for an educational game for your kids (or yourself), enjoy visiting local, state or national parks, want to learn more about the world around us or simply want to play a fun family game, What in the Wild is worth reading more about,” reads one review from Stay at Home Mom Reviews, a website that reviews children’s products.

The game is versatile, which makes for a great playing experience, according to Meeple Mountain, a website that publishes tabletop game reviews.

“We played several games and thoroughly enjoyed each one,” wrote Jonathan Elder of Meeple Mountain. “What in the Wild could easily become a family go-to because it plays quickly, which allows different people the opportunity to win, is easy to play some games as a team (especially if you have very young players), and travels well in a small box… I think it’s a great addition to any school, library, or home.”

What in the Wild can be purchased for $27.99 on the Game Crafter’s website. All proceeds go to providing more teachers with copies of the game.

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