The Rare Earth Game for Teachers

A learning tool that inspires positive intrinsic motivation in the teaching of Chemistry.

Eight years ago, Rick Gowan, a Science teacher, and Jim MacDonald, a graphic artist, came up with the idea for the Rare Earth Game while watching their 8 year-old children memorizing all the minute details on their favorite cartoon character playing cards. Rick and Jim realized that the periodic table offers the perfect foundation for a cartoon card game that kids would love – points (protons), commonalities, and unique characteristics. After 4-years of development and classroom testing, Rick and Jim took their finished game design to CBC’s Dragons’ Den, and ever since the game was broadcast on TV, hundreds of parents, kids and teachers have purchased the Rare Earth Game and loved it!

How the Game is Played
Each card in the Rare Earth Game represents a chemical element in the periodic table. The atomic numbers become the “hit points” of the game. Players capture protons by matching cards to make compounds. Since the forming of a compound produces energy, the player gets an Energy Card, and with that card she can “melt” together Metal and Metalloid cards to make alloys that usually come with higher proton counts. The player who captures the most protons by the end of the game, wins.Each Rare Earth Chemical Element Card Game comes with 108 playing cards and is made in Canada

A player can use a newly formed compound or alloy (with a higher proton count) to “nab” the bonded compound or mixed alloy from another player’s “Lab”. Like the abundances found in nature, the game comes with only a few “Rare Earth element” cards, (which, for the sake of the game, is a categorization applied to the rare earth elements and all transuranic elements). Cards with the "RE" icon have high enough proton counts that, alone, each "RE" card can often capture a compound or alloy from another player’s "Lab". However, each card with an "RE" icon has a half-life of only one turn and, having captured cards, must then be discarded at the end of the turn.

Classroom Applications

The Rare Earth Game delivers a learning experience that is simultaneously kinetic, visual and verbal. Playing the game helps students discover the foundations of Chemistry for themselves by providing a playful context through which individual learning styles are supported. The game’s rules are analogous to Chemistry, therefore questions about game play are invariably questions about the science of Chemistry.

The Rare Earth Game works within the classroom model, providing a shared group experience that provides useful feedback to the teacher. The game, and the individual cards, can be used to support assessments that allow students numerous opportunities to demonstrate mastery in a variety of creative ways.

The Rare Earth Chemical Element Card Game playing card for NitrogenExpectations
The Rare Earth Game covers the majority of the expectations for the Chemistry units in 9th Grade Science in Ontario, Canada. When students demonstrate that they fully understand the rules of the Rare Earth Game, they are demonstrating that they understand the foundations of Chemistry.

Enrichments and Accommodations
The Rare Earth Game provides challenges that go beyond the expected learning outcomes of Science lessons in younger grades. Gifted students are able to broaden their understanding in ways that will help them retain additional knowledge about Chemistry. Additionally, the game cards allow teachers to create specifically tailored approaches and assessment opportunities that support the learning needs of students who have Individual Education Plans.


The Rare Earth Game: Where Positive Emotion Meets Intrinsic Motivation

The Gamification of Science Education

The Rare Earth Game is:

Phosphorus1) Teacher Developed - teachers have learned over time that a product developed for the classroom without teacher involvement may sound good but will not work in the real world. The Rare Earth Game was co-invented by Rick Gowan, the head of the science department at a high school in New Brunswick, Canada.

2) Classroom Tested – it was many hours of ongoing real world classroom experience that taught us what worked best in the game and how to make the game simultaneously educational and fun.

Sulfur3) Student Approved - teachers tell us their students will often self-select to play the game during free time. Because the character cards remind students of familiar collectible card games they play or have played in the past, and because the "grab and nab" component of the game is active and exciting, students play enthusiastically while simultaneously learning about Chemistry...

...and chemistry is everything.


Right now, a classroom set comes with 6 games for the price of 5 and free shipping.


Watch a complete video run-through of Rare Earth Game
for teachers at:

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