Exploring Animal Communication across Ecosystems with BeastBox
The BeastBox game explores how animals use sound to communicate within their ecosystems in a fun and interactive way. This Calls of the Wild activity guide will help educators engage middle school students with the game while addressing key concepts such as animal communication, animal behavior, and ecosystems. The 19-page guide is a free download that includes three lessons, student readings, and a student worksheet.
Activity 1: Ecosystem Exploration
Use the “BeastBox Ecosystems” description page to become more familiar with the types of ecosystems introduced in the game.
Activity 2: Discover Animals with the BeastBox Game
Watch Ben Mirin’s TED talk about the sounds of nature below, then print and distribute the “BeastBox Animal Activity” worksheet for students to fill out while playing the game.
Activity 3: Why Do Animals Communicate?
Watch “The Language of Birds” video below to expand discussion about how and why birds communicate. If you do not have time to watch the whole video, focus on the clip from 1:00 to 5:40.
Have students research a local animal species that communicates via sound. The Macaulay Library, the world’s largest library of natural sounds, has thousands of recordings of many different species. Students can find their species in the library and share their animal’s sound with the class.
Extension: Take it Outside
As an extension to the activities, download our Explorer’s Guidebook and have students complete the Sound Map on page 3.
Calls of the Wild is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards. The lessons challenge students to analyze the reasons behind animal communication, while building science practices related to constructing explanations and engaging in arguments from evidence. Students address crosscutting concepts like patterns, structure and function, and cause and effect through disciplinary core ideas in Life Sciences, in addition to strengthening ELA skills.
Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.
Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.
Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs):
LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms
Animals engage in characteristic behaviors that increase the odds of reproduction. (MS-LS1-4)
LS1.D: Information Processing
Each sense receptor responds to different inputs (electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical), transmitting them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain, resulting in immediate behaviors or memories. (MS-LS1-8)
LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations. (MS-LS2-4)
Biodiversity describes the variety of species found in Earth’s terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems. The completeness or integrity of an ecosystem’s biodiversity is often used as a measure of its health. (MS-LS2-5)
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
Write arguments focused on discipline content.
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.