Field of Science

Bacterial Phylomon!

A while ago a conservationist called Andrew Balmford wrote a letter in Science pointing out an intriguing fact that many parents are already well aware of. Namely that while many young children are able to name and recognise over 100 species of Pokemon (fake creatures from a magical land used for a card game and now a good number of computer games) they are usually woefully ignorant of the types of birds that fly around their houses.

The Science Creative Quarterly then got the idea that if children like playing with cards of wierd and wonderful creatures why not make actual cards of real-life creatures for them to play with? Thus the phylomon project was born, and now boasts an impressive collection of cards showing diverse creatures from all over the planet.

Will it work? Well quite a few parental and teacher hopefuls have downloaded the cards, so presumably they're getting something out of it. There are rules for games, and some kids have made their own cards, but I'm not sure it will ever have quite the same appeal as pokemon. Or even dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were the original "why is my kid able to remember a hundred difficult names but can't remember what her sister's called?" item. Their fascination is that they are powerful, mysterious and almost magical. Pokemon even more so. Face it - a tree is just not as exciting as a velociraptor.

Another thing that I find harder to relate to is that while the cards do have beautiful illustrations the animals have no humanly identifiable expressions. For me, the main draw of Pokemon was that every one of the things had both a name, a load of sweet attacks, and an actual personality. The cards had expressions. Charmeleon was a sulky teanager, Bulbasaur was an overly-large slightly shy kid, Rattata was fierce and always on edge for a fight. Maybe it's just me, but I loved the fact that they each had a history, and a story and a set of almost human feelings and emotions.

So in the spirit of joining in, I have made some bacteria cards. And in the spirit of Pokemon, they all have eyes, expressions, and attacks...

They probably would have been better if I had any drawing ability. Or more than three pens.

Don't miss my first SciAm Blog post about bacteria that communicate with electricity!Link


Arwen from Chameleon's Tongue said...

You're right, special powers definitely make your name worth learning. Kids love scary creatures, and I think the microbes would beat the birds on that one.

iMatter2 said...

Forget kids. I want to play with the bacteria cards! It's a cool idea, that I will definitely pass on to my friends that are elementary teachers.

flygerian said...

This is amazing! It's like exposing the "illetrate" interms of exposure to the world of microbiology to the world of microbes of which they are presently in association with but which they are ignorant of. Can i get a card for P. aeruginosa?