Progress report for WPDP22-005
One challenge to sustainable agriculture is helping farmers adopt principles of integrated pest management (IPM). Most IPM education for farmers is conducted through traditional trainings. To provide an alternative approach our team designed an innovative pest management board game that simulates pest management decision making. In the game, players take on the role of a pest management team who are given the task of producing the healthiest crops possible while using their limited resources efficiently. Each choice the players make has consequences on the field composition and their final score. Currently, there are only three playtest copies of the game but most of our test audience reported feeling more engaged and learning more through the game compared to traditional training experiences. The goal of our proposal is to make this tool more widely available and accessible to agricultural educators (extension educators, agents, and agricultural teachers). To accomplish this, these funds will allow us to improve the art quality of the game, produce and disseminate more copies, investigate the addition of more game scenarios, create a web-based tool to support game facilitators, and put on multiple workshops at land grant universities in the western region or with similar partners. To further improve this tool, we will collect feedback during and following each workshop from agricultural educators and from participants who play the game.
Objective 1: Increase the availability of game-based learning through increased production of the Pest Friends board game as a tool for agricultural educators in the western region to teach their clientele about IPM through experiential learning. No other board games are available currently that cover these concepts and allow this type of simulated learning experience.
Objective 2: Increase the comfort level and capacity of western agricultural educators to use this tool to educate farmers and agriculture students about the principles of integrated pest management. Using a new tool can be difficult and running a new board game straight out of the box can be intimidating to those who don’t play board games often. The genre is new and innovative, so providing additional training and support resources will help educators use the tool successfully.
Objective 3: Design, play test, and investigate the creation of new scenarios to add to Pest Friends that are tailored for a wider variety of audiences. Our plan is to integrate other agricultural concepts and scenarios into the game such as vegetable crops, livestock production, greenhouse production, and the use of cover crops. With additional modules and scenarios, the game would be used by educators more often and within other commodity groups. Currently the board game has one scenario, which limits the ability of educators to run the game multiple times with the same audience.
Objective 4: Gather additional feedback about the educational value of Pest Friends from those who play the game including farmers, agricultural students, producers, and a wider variety of audiences. At this point, we have only play tested the board game with approximately 40 individuals. We will also explore the use of this tool to help the public understand the complexities of farming, pest management, and other sustainability concepts.
Cover Art Development
A professional artist with graphic design experience will improve the visual nature of the game, making it more appealing with a more professional look. Incorporating additional symbols and graphics will make the game easier to learn and play.
Facilitator Aid Development
Critical test audience feedback indicates that new facilitators may get intimidated trying to run the game themselves. Currently, facilitators must keep track of damage occurring to the crop, insect reproduction, the effects of predators, and the effects of player choices. To streamline these factors for new facilitators we will develop a web-based program to keep track of the consequences of player decisions and how populations fluctuate throughout the game. The design will feature a user-friendly interface focused on ease of access for all experience levels.
Setting up Workshops
At the start of the project, we will secure partners to help us conduct workshops for agricultural educators. Our primary emphasis will be partnering with states/territories in the Western region. Partners will include Cooperative Extension systems, agricultural teachers’ associations, professional organizations, and other educational groups. Workshops will be scheduled for 2023 and 2024.
Once cover art is completed, 600 copies of the board game will be printed to distribute to agricultural educators at workshops. Currently, we work with The Game Crafter LLC in Madison, Wisconsin.
Additional Module/Scenario Play Testing
We will develop additional modules and scenarios to expand the variety of the game, with scenarios involving livestock, greenhouses, and weeds. We will also play test these modules to evaluate their educational value. This activity will be ongoing throughout the course of the grant.
January 2023-March 2025
Once copies of the game are available and partners are secured, we will schedule workshops to provide partners with at least 4 hours of hands-on training, copies of the board game, access to the web-based program, and other supporting materials.
Ongoing Data Collection
All agricultural educators attending the training will be added to a mailing list for ongoing communication about the game. Reminders will be sent to encourage their participants to fill out post-game evaluations and return to us for future improvements, to provide game updates, and learn about new expansions in production. They will also be contacted to gather feedback about the development and play testing of new modules for the game.
The pest friends board game was designed as a curriculum to use with farmers and other agricultural audiences. The game is focused on experiential learning by allowing players to make choices and experience consequences. Within the game the players get to make choices about scouting, what controls to use and how to manage risk in their crop. By doing and practicing concepts in a simulated experience players are able to be more engaged than they would be with a typical slide show presentation on these topics. Our focus for this first portion of the grant has been on getting the curriculum through the peer reviewed process, which we did. We also have sent the game with its final graphic design off to the printers to get more copies. Once more copies are in hand we will be prepping to do train the trainer events in Idaho and the western region.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
1.Increase the availability of game-based learning through increased production of the Pest Friends board game as a tool for agricultural educators in the western region to teach their clientele about IPM through experiential learning.
As part of this process we have worked to develop the pest friends board game which is now fully peer reviewed and published. Printing of copies of the game has commenced by Game Crafter and they are expected to arrive by April of 2023. Making more copies of the game and networking with similar educators will assist us with making this accessible. We are in talks potential collaborators in Montana, Hawaii, Utah, Alaska and throughout Idaho. These partners will help us eventually make this more accessible.
A fully published high quality board game has been completed digitally and is in print currently.
2.Increase the comfort level and capacity of western agricultural educators to use this tool to educate farmers and agriculture students about the principles of integrated pest management.
As part of our work we have created a full fledged rule book to assist with teaching moderators how to run the game. The rule book was peer reviewed and is 32 pages long. We have also begun developing a web based program that will help moderators run the game more easily and not require calculations on their part. We anticipate this will be completed sometime in the middle of next year. We are also working with multiple state collaborators to take the game and do a training in the states where we are visiting.
Design, play test, and investigate the creation of new scenarios to add to Pest Friends that are tailored for a wider variety of audiences.
At this point we are currently playtesting a variety of additional scenarios. 3 of these include weed focused scenarios in collaboration with the University of Idaho Weed Specialist. There are also mini-scenarios or minor rule change scenarios that are in development that would require little to no modification to components so users can play the game additional times without having to buy more components (tiles etc...)
Gather additional feedback about the educational value of Pest Friends from those who play the game including farmers, agricultural students, producers, and a wider variety of audiences.
When we submitted our application we had only played the game with 40 individuals. At this point we have played the game with over 350 individuals. As we continue to play the game we gain additional feedback about the value of the game and ways to modify it for new audiences. One audience we are considering is youth below the age of 12 which are not as skilled at reading as our main audience. This type of project would require additional money, but we are exploring other ways to use the game in these ways. We are playtesting with middle school youth with the game to see how youth and teachers respond.
We reached an additional 310 individuals who played the game and gained an increased knowledge of the principles of pest management.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The pest friends board game is now a fully published peer reviewed curricula. The game has updated art and exceptional graphic design. We also published an article about the board game and our work with it in the Journal of National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA).
In the fall we completed all artwork for the game and then transitioned into the final publishing phase by fine tuning graphic design and final peer review. All game files for the base game have been completed and have been sent off to the printer. Our original goal was to be able to print 600 copies of the board game, but due to greatly rising inflation costs and additional components we had to add to the game based on peer review we were only able to purchase 350 copies for the original price we anticipated. These copies of the game should arrive by April 2023 by our current estimates. Having more copies will make the game more readily available to interested educators who want to use the tool. To increase the comfort level and capacity of western agricultural educators who may use this tool we have already begun production of an application to assist the moderator with running the game. We anticipate this web based program will be completed and ready to use by Mid 2023 at the latest. They are also making progress on a digital version of the game that will be much more accessible. To increase comfort level we are already planning workshops with a few western states. We currently have a date set for going to Montana State to help teach their extension educators early 2023. We are in talks with the Idaho Agricultural Teachers Association, Idaho Ag in the Classroom Group, Utah State University and the University of Hawaii. We are working on playtesting and developing additional scenarios at this time and should have another scenario ready to officially release by the middle of next year.
One event where we showcased the curriculum and played it with an important audience was at the University of Idaho Extension Overall Advisory (which consists of 12 stakeholders from across the state with varying fields of work). They had the opportunity to play the game and experience it. Their response to us was mostly positive. In a survey we gave them:
- 100% indicated they felt this experience was more engaging than a typical hour long slideshow training
- 75% indicated they felt like they learned more through this experience than they would in a typical hour long slideshow training.
- 88% of them indicated that this has a lot of value for Idaho youth
- 86% of them indicated they felt this had a lot of value for Idaho farmers
- 88% of them felt that extension should be developing more educational games like this.