5 Creative Ways to Teach Ecological Competition to Help Students Understand

Akanksha Saxena

Ecological competition, a captivating phenomenon within natural systems, emerges as species vie for limited resources. This intricate struggle shapes ecological communities, influences biodiversity patterns, and drives evolutionary processes. Exploring the dynamics of competition unveils the fascinating intricacies of how organisms interact and adapt to their environment.

Teaching this can be challenging for educators due to its complex nature, abstract concepts, and the need to balance theoretical understanding with practical applications. It requires engaging instructional strategies and effective communication to ensure students grasp the intricacies of this topic. For this reason, we have compiled 5 creative ways that can be useful to teachers.

1. Use Interactive Models and Simulations

Educators can plan the utilization of models and simulations that can greatly enhance students’ comprehension of ecological competition interactions. Since these models like Labster’s Competition Model provide simplified representations of complex ecological systems, they allow learners to:

  • Explore and manipulate different species involved in the competition.
  • Observe how the outcomes change when one species increases in number more than another.
  • Comprehend cause-and-effect relationships. 

There is scientific evidence that the use of simulations can help in the simplification and visualization of abstract ecological concepts. Given the controlled virtual environment provided to students, there exists an opportunity for learning through the exploration of mistakes. Furthermore, an added advantage of utilizing simulations is that students can accomplish tasks with a simple click of the mouse that would otherwise require months of effort. For example, they can “virtually grow specific species of trees that take 10-12 years to mature” to observe their behaviors in competitive interactions!

Preview of CPT - Fields simulation.

2. Learning with Games and Activities

Given the limitations of observing real-world ecological interactions, educators can utilize games to enable students to engage with various species and experience ecological interactions such as competition. Digital games not only aid visualization of these interactions but also break down complex ecological concepts into more accessible and relatable experiences for students. Labster’s Competition Game provides an avenue for students to visit an imaginary planet named Astakos IV and help its residents in maximizing their crop yields by ‘playing with competition forces’ between different species. Some of the many benefits of involving students in this activity-based learning are:

  1. Comprehensible depiction of ecological phenomena.  
  2. Experiential learning
  3. Active engagement
  4. Contextualization and clarity of predator-prey relationships
  5. Immediate feedback for identifying misconceptions

3. Infusing Technology into Study Plans

With the current advancement in technology, the lists of tools available in the public domain for simplifying the core concepts of abstract topics like competitions are plentiful. Educators can leverage the benefits of interaction, visualization, collaboration, and access to vast resources. This integration will facilitate a deeper understanding of how species interact in a competitive relationship in natural ecological systems. You can plan Virtual Field Trips which allow students to explore different ecosystems and observe species interactions Labster provides a Virtual Field Trip Opportunity where students can identify and quantify competition between species.

Preview of CPT - Whean simulation.
Discover Labster's Ecological Competition virtual lab today!

4. Inspiring Learners by Connecting to Career Prospects

Establishing the connection between studying a complex topic and its practical application in one's profession can serve as a motivating factor for learning and mastering the subject. Professionals in the field of ecological research delve into studying competitive interactions to uncover insights about species coexistence, resource allocation, and population dynamics. Their findings contribute to ecological understanding and inform conservation efforts.

There is immense scope in “environmental consulting” for industries and organizations to promote sustainable practices these days. You can also inform them about the roles of conservation managers and wildlife biologists.5. Connecting the Topic to Real-World Applications

Educators can establish the relevance of ecological competition by highlighting its real-world applications and fostering an innovative and scientific perspective among students. By showcasing how competition impacts natural systems and influences environmental sustainability, students can understand its significance. 

Examples may include:

  • Exploring the‘competitive interactions between invasive and native species
  • Understanding the role of competition in the spread of diseases
  • Examining how competition shapes ecological communities
  • Discussing how ecological competition influences agriculture, conservation efforts, and the management of natural resources

By connecting ecological competition to practical contexts, students develop a deeper appreciation for the subject and recognize its relevance in addressing real-world challenges and promoting ecological balance.

Final thoughts

Teaching ecological competition to students is crucial in the current time as it deepens their understanding of ecosystem dynamics, aids in addressing environmental challenges, and fosters sustainable practices to mitigate the impacts of competition on biodiversity and ecosystem stability.

Preview of CPT - Replacement series simulation.
Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and teach with the Ecological Competition simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!


  1. Ameerbakhsh, O., Maharaj, S., Hussain, A., Paine, T., & Taiksi, S. (2016, September). An exploratory case study of interactive simulation for teaching Ecology. In 2016 15th International Conference on Information Technology Based Higher Education and Training (ITHET) (pp. 1-7). IEEE.
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