Jan 182013

In the 1970’s, an influential ecological hypothesis was developed by two tropical biologists trying to explain the distribution of trees in the hyper-diverse rainforests of planet Earth. We use a deceptively simple board game as a model for students to explore how two basic concepts (dispersing far is hard, and living at high density is dangerous) can be combined to explain this baffling natural pattern. We show you how to interactively lead students through the predictions of the hypothesis, give you the tools to collect data from the game itself, and finish by graphing and discussing our board-game data.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain dispersal in an ecological context including why dispersal is important and the challenges of dispersal
  • Make predictions based on ecological concepts
  • Understand the principles of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis
  • Graph data generated from a game/model


Lesson created and designed by GK-12 Fellows Sara Garnett, Anne Royer, and Michael Kuczynski, 2012