Activity: Hydropoly: A Decision-Making Game

Summary: Through the various land-use choices posed in the board game Hydropoly, students must consider both the economic and environmental consequences of their decisions. This type of decision-making helps prepare young people for situations they’ll encounter throughout their lives.

You Need:

  • 60 minutes
  • Downloads: Hydropoly game boards (one for each small group of students), One set of Hydropoly Decision Cards per game board
  • One single die (not pair) per game board
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Six different-colored playing pieces per game board (construction paper squares or pieces from another game)


Advance Preparation

Read the game instructions below.

  • Copy decision cards (2-3 sets). Cut apart individual cards.
  • Design a game board for use in your classroom.
  • The game board should have the following types of labeled spaces: Start, Roll Again, Lose a Turn, Decision Card, many blank spaces, The Winner.

Part 1

  • Ask students to describe decisions that they have made recently.
    • What do they like and dislike about making decisions?
    • What helps them make a wise choice?
  • Have them list important considerations.
    • Have any of them made a wrong decision recently (or ever)?
    • How can wrong decisions be a good experience? (We can learn from our mistakes.)
  • Divide the class into small groups.
  • Hydropoly may be played by 2-6 players, or 2-6 teams of players.
  • Discuss “eco-nomics” before beginning to play.

Part 2 – Review the Rules

  • Each player (or team) selects a game piece and places it on the space marked “Start.”
  • Each player rolls the die. The player who rolls the highest number goes first.
  • Play proceeds in a clockwise direction.
  • The first player rolls the die and moves his or her playing piece the number of spaces indicated on the die. Move in the direction indicated by the arrows on the board.
  • When a player lands on a blank space, his or her turn is over, and play advances to the next player.
  • When a player lands on a space marked “Roll Again,” s/he may do so and move along the board as before.
  • If a player lands on “Lose A Turn,” the turn is over, and s/he must skip the next turn.
  • Decision Cards: when a player lands on a Decision Card space, s/he must randomly select one of the cards (cards should be face-down).
    • An opponent reads the top portion of the card aloud. (Do not read the “Consequences” out loud.)
    • The player has a maximum of 2 minutes to make a decision. If playing in teams, team members may discuss the decision quietly.
    • When a player announces his or her decision, the person holding the card reads the “Consequences,” which tell how many spaces the player has earned or lost for the decision.
    • The player must follow the instructions given on the card and return the card to the pile.
    • The player’s turn continues until landing on a blank space or “Lose A Turn.” Play then moves to the next player or team.
  • Players may only reach “The Winner” space by an exact roll of the die. (If a player is 4 spaces away, for example, and rolls a 5, s/he may not move and must forfeit the turn. If a player rolls a 3, s/he moves 3 spaces but must then roll a 1 to win.)
  • Note: The consequences specified on each Decision Card rewards learners for choosing certain actions in relation to their environments. If you wish other values to be considered, have the class or team of students determine a new set of consequences and substitute them on the Decision Cards before the game begins.

Part 3 – Play!

  • When students understand the rules, play the game!
  • You may choose to have learners play “blind” first, and then discuss eco-nomics after the game.
  • Play several games if time allows.

Part 4 – Discuss the Results

  • After the games have ended, discuss the results — who won, and why the winner reached the end more quickly than others. What did players think about while making decisions? Students can revise or confirm the considerations they made in the opening discussion.
  • Discuss why it is important to consider wetlands, coastal resources and other environmental matters in scenarios like those presented in the game. Have students research community actions regarding aquatic resource management. Do they think wise decisions were made?

Activity Extension

  • Have students write a series of Decision Cards that apply to the management of a wetland or other aquatic resources (such as lakes, rivers and coastlines) in their community.
  • Include current political debates if possible.


Adapted for the Great Lakes Education Program “Hydropoly” with permission. Original source: WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands, pp. 260-265.