Simulation Games as Teaching and Learning Tools
A primary goal of this project is making state-and-transition models (STMs) accessible to the adult learner in a manner that is both engaging and contextually relevant. Our approach is asking adult learners in an extension workshop to “experience” managing a ranch with STMs. The core teaching interface is the S&T Ranch game, which is a ranch simulation game executed in an Excel® workbook (Pritchett et al. 2012). The game is the centerpiece of STM extension workshops connecting ecological monitoring, economic outcomes and adaptive management.
In the S&T Ranch game, groups of 2 to 3 workshop participants form a management team that must make decisions about stocking rates and herbicide spraying on the S&T Ranch. The game creates an interactive learning environment conducive to producing long-term growth in decision making skills. After completing the game, participants should: become more aware of ecological site descriptions and their use; better understand STMs and how they can be used in adaptive management; have an increased familiarity with the tradeoffs between ranch profitability and the provision of ecosystem services in addition to the tradeoffs between ecosystem services; and understand the path dependence of transitions.
The S&T Ranch game was created by Jay Parsons, based on the linked economic-ecological model built by John Ritten (see Ritten et al. 2011). Ecological and wildlife data for this model was provided by Emily Kachergis and Willow Hibbs (see Kachergis et al. 2013). See Pritchett et al. 2012 for a description of the S&T Ranch game.