Variation Game

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In this set of outdoor games, learners play the role of monkeys that are trying to get enough resources (food, shelter, and space) to survive. They play several simple games which involve strength, quickness, coordination, intuition, and luck in order to acquire these resources. The games focus attention on the participants’ individual variations in these areas. There are three “rounds” which represent three different changing environments, each of which requires different skills for survival. After the games, learners compare who got enough resources and what variations among the players may have affected how the game went.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • resource counters (popsicle sticks, cardboard pieces, other small objects)
  • Games Monkey's Play Rules card (page 5 and 6 of PDF)
  • watch or kitchen timer
  • data board and marking pen
  • two-meter lengths of heavy rope, old garden hose, etc.
  • bolts, at least 5 cm long
  • nuts to fit the bolts
  • sewing needles
  • corks
  • spool of sewing thread
  • 5" x 8" index cards


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Populations
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
      • Muscles and Skin
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Touch
      • Smell
      • Perception
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Games
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity
  • Sports and Exercise


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1980