Activity: Break the Barriers

Summary: This board game teaches students about the various methods used to limit the sea lamprey population in the Great Lakes. Students assume the identity of sea lampreys and attempt to migrate from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior.

You Need:

Advance Preparation

  • Copy and assemble the game boards. Tape together two sections to make each game board.
  • Copy enough game boards so that four students can play each game.
  • Copy game cards and fact sheet. Copy one or two sets of barrier cards and lamprey cards for each game. (Two sets for each game are advised since students go through one set quite rapidly.)
  • Copy one barrier fact sheet for each game. Students will cut out the sea lamprey picture on the side of game board to use as moveable game pieces.


Part 1

  • Show pictures of sea lampreys attached to lake trout on the Barrier Fact Sheet. Explain a little bit about sea lampreys, parasite/host relationships, and the value of host fish.
  • Describe methods to control sea lamprey populations, including various barriers used in the game.
  • Explain that fisheries managers use barriers to prevent sea lampreys from migrating through all of the Great Lakes. If lampreys did not reach the spawning grounds, managers could discontinue the chemical control methods currently used to eliminate larvae.
  • Divide students into cooperative learning groups of up to four students. Distribute the barrier fact sheet to each group, and have students cut out and color the game pieces.
  • Four students can play the game at a time. Each player assumes the identity of a sea lamprey and attempts to move from the “Start” position, which is Lake Ontario, up through the Great Lakes to the “Finish” position, which is Lake Superior.

Part 2

  • Players should read each space carefully as they proceed through the game. Players must do what is written on the game space or card. A player’s turn continues until there are no more instructions to move the game piece.
  • When landing on a space marked “Take a Barrier Card” or “Take a Lamprey Card,” a player must draw a card from the appropriate pile, read it aloud to the other players, and move his or her game piece as instructed. After a card has been read, it should be returned to the bottom of the pile of cards.
  • The winner is the first lamprey to migrate all the way from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior. Players must roll the exact amount to reach the “Finish” position.
  • After playing the game, have students list or discuss the types of methods being used to slow the increase of the lamprey population.
  • Have each student write a paragraph about the two methods that he or she believes to be the most effective, explaining why they have been chosen. Have them refer to the barrier fact sheet.


Prepared by Rosemary Nowak, Eden Elementary School, Eden, New York, for the ESCAPE Compendium, developed by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network.