Survival of the Fittest Paper Catchers is a hands-on predator-prey activity developed by Project GUTS at MIT and Code.org. In it, students toss and catch crumpled paper to collect data. For it, you need a stack of scratch paper to crumple and a sheet or two of newspaper (or a similar way to mark an area on the floor, like a hula hoop).
In the activity, students learn about population growth and its limits.
In Round 1, one student throws the paper ball two feet up and attempts to catch it. If they do, they stay in the population and reproduce; if they drop their paper ball, they die and must sit down. They reproduce by selecting another student to join in the population. Repeat these steps for several generations while recording the population size and generation number after each throw. When all students are standing, ask them to look for patterns and predict what could happen if the game could be played with an unlimited number of people.
In Round 2, students follow the same rules with an added constraint. To survive, they must throw and catch their paper ball while keeping one foot on the piece of newspaper. Ask students to predict any changes in the data pattern they anticipate. Ask students what the piece of newspaper might represent. One answer is similarly limited resources in nature, such as food supply. The maximum number of paper catchers the piece of newspaper can support is its “carrying capacity.”
In Round 3, replace the piece of newspaper with a sheet of 8.5"x 11" / A4 printer paper. Ask, “What will happen when we play again?” and “What will the shape of the population growth curve be?”
For a lot more detail on this activity, see Survival of the Fittest Paper Catchers at Project GUTS.