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.
Project objectives from proposal:
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.