Did you know there was a study done in 2002 that showed that children recognize more fictional Pokemon characters (120) than photographs of real plants and animals from their own neighborhood (see details)? In response biologists and artists have worked together to start The Phylo Project, a trading card game that uses some of the appeal of Pokemon to teach children about the natural world around them.
The site is filled with lovely cards. Each one has the organism's common name, scientific name, Kingdom, Phylum and Class, as well as points and moves for the game. If you click on the permalink option under each card, it will take you to a more extensive information page about the organism illustrated (click the card shown here to see an example).
The Phylo Trading Card Game is free to anyone who wants to try it. All it requires is a printer and some time to download and print out the rules and a starter deck of cards (laminating the cards might be a good idea, too). Do-it-yourself cards are encouraged as well and a widget is in development to make diy cards easier.
Even if your children or students are not interested in playing the game, print or create a card whenever you encounter a new living thing as a way to record your nature observations. Add notes to the back about where and when you saw the insect, bird or flower and what you learned about it. Think of the cards as a different form of nature journal. To help with organization, you could use one color background for insects, another for mammals and another for fungi, etc. Make multiple copies to share your findings with a group of interested friends. The possibilities are endless.
I'd love to hear what you think of this and if you give it a try.