This activity introduces the concepts of ecosystems, biodiversity and interdependence within the forest community, and human influences on these.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • be introduced to the concepts of ecosystems, biodiversity and interdependence within the forest community
  • investigate how living things are suited to their habitat and how they respond to environmental changes both natural and human-induced.

Curiculum links

Science: living world

Level 2

Ecology: Recognise that living things are suited to their particular habitat

Level 3 and 4

Life processes: Recognise that there are life processes common to all living things and that these occur in different ways.

Ecology: Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human induced.

Social sciences

Level 3 and 4
  • Understand that people view and use places differently.
  • Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for people, places and environments.

Learning levels

  • Primary
  • Secondary 


  • Native animals
  • Forests and green spaces
  • Native animals
  • Pests and threats

Activity instructions

The aim of this activity is to introduce the concepts of ecosystems, biodiversity and interdependence within the forest community, and human influence on these. This activity is adapted from ones developed by Barry Law and Bert McConnell and Christchurch City Council.


  • Set of cards so that each student has one card.
  • List of scenarios.

Download the cards:

What to do:

By brainstorming find out from the students what they already know about New Zealand’s forest communities. You could start by drawing a tree and naming all the things that would live in or use that tree from the tip down to its roots. Think about native and exotic species of plants and animals. What and why do these things live here? How many insects and birds would live in one tree?

Shuffle the cards and give one to each student.

Have the trees stand in the middle if the room, with enough room on either side of them for others to stand.

All other organisms then occupy a tree that is on their card. Check that everyone is happy, do the birds have enough to eat, room to nest?

Scenario A: It is daytime. The birds fly around among the trees and search for food, tasting different berries and nectar.

Scenario B: It is night time. The birds stop to rest in their trees and it is the insects’ turn to search for food.

(These scenarios can be played once or repeated).

Make sure that students remember their tree.

Question students about what can cause damage to the forest community e.g. animal and plant pests, fire, forest removal for development projects.

Damage cards are issued to some of the trees and the facilitator can decide on how many trees are removed. The birds and insects must find new homes.

Do the remaining trees have enough food?


How do they feel about being so crowded?

Not all the birds and insects can survive now; some will have to leave the game. What does this mean for the forest community?

Is this happening to our forests in New Zealand? Why?

What can be done about it?

Processing questions:

  1. What does this game tell us about the relationships between native trees and animals?  
  2. What can we learn about New Zealand’s biodiversity from this activity?  
  3. What places in your own school/local community are at risk for reasons similar to those in this game, or others? Do these areas support ecosystems and areas of biodiversity?
  4. How does it feel to know we are losing native plants, trees and wildlife from our environment?  
  5. What can we do about this?
    This is a chance for you and your students to plan an action to help either in the restoration or protection of a bush/forest area or some other local site. See the ‘for the environment’ section of a Super Site kit and use the action plan template to help get you started.  

Picture card key:

Native snail
Kererū /wood pigeon

A = Rimu
B = Southern rata
C = Five finger/Whauwhapaku
D = Tōtara
E = Kōwhai

Rules of the forest:

Fantails nest only in trees A and B
Native snails eat only the leaves of C
Moths sip nectar from D or A
Kererū eat berries of B
Kōkako mate on the branches of A
Spiders prefer to build webs in C
Wētā eat food from A and E
Mites eat leaves from B
Bees eat nectar from B or E
Humans: anti-cancer fungi grow on A and B
Humans: the berries from tree C prevent colds

Possible scenarios:

  • Bulldozing for development – Reduces 2 tree species  
  • Clear felling for wood resources – Reduces 2 tree species  
  • Invasion of exotic species e.g. old man’s beard, wilding pines preventing the growth of young natives – Reduces 2 tree species  
  • Invasion of possums - Reduces 2 tree species


Let us know if you have any questions or recommendations 

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