A Balancing Act

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In this plant science activity, learners role play as vegetables and weeds competing for nutrients. The object of the game is for the weeds and vegetables to gather as many colored squares as they can. Each paper square represents a different type of nutrient (i.e. green squares represent nitrogen). If a vegetable or a weed does not have at least two of each color square, they “die” from not getting enough nutrients and must step out of the garden. Use this activity to simulate survival and competition in nature and plant-life.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Game, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 36 - 2" x 2" squares of green poster board (N on one side and Nitrogen on other)
  • 36 - 2" x 2" squares of yellow poster board (K on one side and Potas- sium on other)
  • 36 - 2" x 2" squares of blue poster board (P on one side and Phosphorus on other)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations

Informal Categories

  • Games
  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 2001