Bean-Counter Evolution

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In this simulation game, learners play as predators equipped with genetically different “mouths” (utensils) and hunt for “prey” (assorted beans). Over several “generations” of play, the fittest among the predators and prey dominate the population, modeling the evolutionary process of natural selection. Note: this game works best with a group of 15 or more people. See the Teaching Tips section in the guide for ways to accommodate smaller groups. Includes step-by-step instructions, related standards, an example data set and calculation sheet, an explanation of the science behind the activity, and a suggested activity extension that models what happens when a predator group has low genetic variability.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Game, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Dry beans of four different colors, such as kidney or red beans, navy beans (white), black beans, and pinto beans; a few hundred of each type (a one-pound bag of each should be enough)
  • Four plastic containers (one for each color of bean)
  • Bowl or box for mixing the beans
  • Plastic or paper cups (one per person)
  • Predator "mouths" of several types, such as forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks, forceps, straws, or bare hands (one per person in each predator group), plus extras for “predators” that change groups during the game)
  • Stopwatch, or a watch with a second hand
  • Level, outdoor area of grass, sand, or bare dirt, roughly a 15 x 15 feet (5 x 5 meters) square; indoor, carpeted areas can be substituted
  • Calculators (one per predator group)
  • Example data set and calculations pdf
  • Three or more large sheets of butcher paper, flip chart, or other means of recording and displaying results (for educators)
  • Markers of several colors (for recording results)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
    • Ecology
      • Biodiversity
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Games


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

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Access Rights:

  • Free access