Feeding frenzy: turning the science of zoo nutrition into a game for kids


Fisher B, Bissell H.  2015.  Feeding frenzy: turning the science of zoo nutrition into a game for kids.  In Bissell H, Brooks M Eds. Proceedings of the Eleventh Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Portland, OR.


In 2012, Busch Gardens opened the Animal Care Center to the public to share general information about the techniques and science involved in preventative and emergency care of the 12,000 animal residents of the zoo as well as local injured wildlife. Zoo educators teamed up with the veterinary and nutrition staff to develop demonstrations and interpretive elements that would share advanced scientific principles with a general audience. The concept of using a board game to teach children the basic concepts of zoo nutrition was developed into a working prototype, starting with current nutritional data for common foods (Kerr 2014, Mazuri 2015, Schmidt 2005, USDA 2014) and approximate relative values for animal nutritional requirements. To simplify the numbers for gameplay, nutritional composition was scaled down to integers ? 6, while maintaining approximate relative values, and the animals requirements were set at a maximum of 20 “nutritional units”. To ensure playability, the conceit was made that every animal represented in the game could have their nutritional needs met using five food cards, with multiple alternative solutions being possible. The resulting game is used as an interpretive tool by educators to start conversations about the science of nutrition and the interplay between animal husbandry, nutrition, and veterinary care.

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