Mustard Mania! A DIY Biotech Board Game

Learn more about plant biotechnology by playing a board game that introduces you to common genetic modifications.

About the Activity

The mustard you’ve had on a hot dog comes from strains of the wild mustard plant that scientists selectively bred over hundreds of years to get different desired characteristics (and today’s mustard is created by grinding seeds from the mustard plant and mixing them with vinegar and salt). And that’s not the only new vegetable, created through scientific breeding, that you commonly see on your dinner plate.

In this activity, kids will play a board game and learn about wild mustard cultivars, and compete to visit six different gardens.

This activity is part of our 4-H at Home Plant Science Series. See the rest of the activities here.

Grades: 6-8
Topic: Agriculture, Plant Science, STEM
Estimated Time: 45-60 minutes

Brought to you by University of Georgia Extension/4-H and USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Special thanks to Kasey Bozeman, Extension 4-H Specialist

A field of greens


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Activity Steps

Brassica oleracea (BRAS-ih-ka ol-lur-RAY-see-uh) is the wild ancestor of many common vegetables. Over a few thousand years, scientists have bred the mustard plant into different "cultivars" that eventually became many of the vegetables we eat: kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Scientists can take one plant, artificially select desirable characteristics, and then breed the plant to have intended offspring.
This activity is perfect for a small group of 3-4 players. It mimics the game Clue. To play the game, each group needs 1 board game mat, 1 token for each player, 1 check-off card and pencil for each player, 1 weather dice, and 1 regular dice.
The goal is for each player to visit the six different cultivar gardens. Once they visit each garden, they will check-off their visit on their card. The first person who visits all six cultivar gardens (kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower) is the winner of the game.

  1. To get started, print out the board and the dice. Cut out the dice, and fold as indicated and tape the edges together.
  2. To begin the game, each player puts their token in one of the mustard gardens (it’s their choice where they begin).
  3. A player's first turn represents that farmers need good weather conditions in order to be outside in the garden. Storms can provide unsafe conditions. First, they’ll roll the weather dice
    - If they roll a sunny day, then they proceed to the next step
    - If they roll a stormy day, then their turn is over
    After rolling a sunny day, the player will now roll the number dice and move the appropriate number of spaces (small boxes) around the garden
    - You must enter a cultivar garden through the gate
    - Tokens may be moved horizontally or vertically, forward or backward, but not diagonally
    - You are not allowed to enter the same space twice on the same turn
    - You may share a space that is already occupied by another player
    - The secret tunnel transports you from one side of the property to the other side of the property
    If a player enters a cultivar garden through the gate, then they check-off the visit on their card. (They can have leftover numbers; this does not have to be an exact roll.) This ends their turn.
  4. Players continue to take turns clockwise until a winner emerges (someone who has visited all 6 gardens)

Reflection Questions
Bonus questions to inspire wonder:

  1. How did the weather dice (sun or storm) represent how weather affects a farmer’s safety?
  2. How did you use strategy to play the Mustard Mania board game?
  3. Have you seen any of these vegetables in real life? How are they similar? How are they different?
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Investigate and Explore

Plant biotechnology can help farmers and the environment in many ways:

  • Crops are susceptible to insect damage, so scientists have found ways to use biotechnology to help plants protect themselves from insect larvae worms.
  • All plants need water in order to grow; however, some crops need more water than others. Scientists can create hybrid varieties of plants that require less water to grow, helping to conserve this precious natural resource.
  • Each plant has a different rate at which they mature. Biotechnology can allow for plants to be designed to grow faster and be harvested sooner. This allows farmers to provide more food to help feed the world.
Green plants in a greenhouse

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No endorsement of these supporters' products or services is granted or implied by 4‑H. This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, AFRI - Education and Workforce Development project 2021-67037-33376.9

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