Boomtown Game

Boomtown is a hybrid board game, modeled after Monopoly®, intended to teach students the value of ecosystem services. An ecosystem service is any positive benefit that wildlife or ecosystems provides to people. The benefits can be direct or indirect – small or large.

Activity developed by UCAR AirWaterGas Teachers-in-Residence Eileen Duncan (high school teacher) and Sarah Johnson (middle school teacher).

Grade level: 6-12

Time Required
Teacher Preparation Time: 1-2 hours

Class Time: Three 45 minute class periods (1 day to create the playing map, 1 day to play the game, 1 day for game analysis).

Learning Goal
Big Idea- Ecosystems contain services that nourish and sustain human life.

Key Concepts

  • There are four types of ecosystem services: supporting, regulating, provisioning, and cultural.
  • Ecosystem services impact both local and outside communities by their connections and relationships with other services.
  • Human activities are connected and alter ecosystem services.

Lesson Format
Hands-on activity, calculating, reading, and analysis of data, events, and outcomes.

Standards (Next Generation Science Standards)

  • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
  • HS-ESS3.A All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.
  • HS-ESSC.C The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.
  • Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanation and Designing Solutions Engaging in Argument from evidence
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

Standards (AP Environmental Science – The Living World)

  • Ecosystem Diversity (Biodiversity; natural selection; evolution; ecosystem services)

Standards (Colorado State Science Standards for Science)

  • HS.3.5 There are costs, benefits, and consequences of exploration, development, and consumption of renewable and nonrenewable resources
  • 6.3.3 Earth’s natural resources provide the foundation for human society’s physical needs. Many natural resources are nonrenewable on human timescales, while others can be renewed or recycled.
  • 8.2.1 Human activities can deliberately or inadvertently alter ecosystems and their resiliency

Master Material List

  • Boomtown MASTER COPY (contains all lesson plans and handouts)
  • 18 sheets of Graph Paper for Community Map (4 – ¼” squares per Inch), printed on 11” x 17” paper (three sheets per group)
  •  One Boomtown Game Board (printed on 11 x 17” paper and assembled)
  • One set of Boomtown Game Cards
  • One 10 sided die + one 10 sided die per group
  • One set of Game-Pieces
  • Ruler (one per group)
  • Calculator (one per group)
  • Colored Pencils (at least one box per group)
  • Rulers (at least one per group)
  • 6 Folders (to keep each group’s materials together)


The Boomtown Game is divided into three days of class time:

Background information
Ecosystem services are benefits humans receive from their environment. Some of these benefits guarantee our survival, while others provide have a more intrinsic value. These services are split into four categories.

Provisioning – an object or resource that humans can take from the environment. Examples: food, fossil fuels, timber, medicine, drinking water.

Regulating– a natural process within an ecosystem that benefits human existence. Examples: water purification, pollination, decomposition, carbon storage.

Cultural– a non-material benefit that contributes to an areas culture and experience. Examples: recreation, art, relaxation, national parks, visual display,

Supporting– a natural process that supports all other ecosystem services. Examples: water cycle, photosynthesis, soil formation, biomass production.


  1. Teachers could have their students look around their communities to look for similar impacts within the student’s community, watch the news for similar events happening that occurred in the game.
  2. Students can compare their communities to surrounding communities.
  3. Complete Internet searches around any of the environmental issues presented in during the game.
  4. Have a debate about a certain issue that seemed to be the most debated during game play.