Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools for facilitating EBM and MSP processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network, a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.

An EBM Tool Network member recently asked the Network for hands-on activities, including games, for teaching students (or stakeholders, elected officials, etc.) about ecosystems services and EBM. Network members shared a variety of great resources ranging from sophisticated multi-player “serious games” for conservation and management professionals to simple activities involving a walk outside and group discussion. Some examples of great hands-on ecosystem services and EBM teaching tools include:

  • NEWLY ADDED: Bienes y Servicios Ambientales (BySA) developed by the Mexican National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) is a board game that introduces players to information on forest-related environmental goods and services in Mexico, including wetlands.
  • NEWLY ADDED: Connecting Ecosystems and Human Health developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an introductory lesson on ecosystem services for elementary, middle, high school, undergraduate and nonformal education settings. It utilizes US EPA’s EnviroAtlas tool to highlight linkages between ecosystem services such as water quality to human health outcomes such as cancer. Six ecosystem services and ~32 human health outcomes are included, and it can be completed with groups as small as 9-10 students and as large as 38 students.
  • NEWLY ADDED: Trade-Off! Developed by SeaWeb is a board game that lets players take the role of different coastal stakeholders – natural resource managers, commercial fishers, scientists, developers to elected officials, and others – who negotiate uses and activities in a coastal community. Contact the EBM Tools Network Coordinator at ebmtools@natureserve.org for additional information.
  • Tradeoff! developed by the Natural Capital Project is a series of mapping games that introduces concepts related to nature's benefits to people in a simple manner. In the coastal zone management version, players develop the coast of Belize, deciding where to fish, where to build, and what to conserve.
  • Buy, Sell, Trade! developed by IUCN and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a free role-playing game that demonstrates the multiple benefits of preserving ecosystems for the services that they provide. The game helps participants see the importance of internalizing ecosystem values that are commonly left out of the marketplace.
  • MSP Challenge Original developed by the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment, Rijkswaterstaat, and Signature games is a free computer, role-playing game where players represent businesses, environmental NGOs, policy analysts, or scientists to develop a spatial plan for a shared sea area. Facilitated simulation and board game versions of this game are also available.
  • The Basin Challenge developed by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food-Mekong is a free, one- or two-player computer game that gives participants the opportunity to experience some of the potential short and long-term benefits and costs associated with the development – including agricultural development, logging, tourism and hydropower – of a river basin.
  • Game of Floods developed by the County of Marin, California, is a free board game for public education on sea level rise adaptation, including traditional flood protection measures such as levees and seawalls; green infrastructure approaches; and policy/zoning changes. To play the game, 4-6 participants develop a vision for ‘Marin Island 2050,’ a hypothetical landscape that highlights the conditions that will be experienced in Marin in coming years with sea level rise and increased storm impacts.
  • A simple activity is to break up participants into groups and debate the value of an ecosystem good (e.g., trees just outside the classroom). Each group is assigned a type of value that they have to assess (e.g., direct use, indirect use, option, bequest, existence), determine the category of ecosystem service it fits in (e.g., provisioning, support, regulating, cultural), and find a way to assign a monetary value to it. For example, one group would be asked to assess the value of the timber, another the value of reduced energy costs of nearby buildings due to shade, and others to prioritize aesthetics or biodiversity. One group is told that the trees overlie an important indigenous burial ground or that the trees are an important cultural icon. After a discussion period, each group presents a “pitch” for why their ecosystem service that the trees provide is the most valuable. Prizes can be rewarded to the most convincing group.

Want to learn about other games? If you are interested in seeing the full compilations of games, activities, and resources that the Network came up with, please send an email to the EBM Tools Network Coordinator at ebmtools@natureserve.org.

Ask the Network: If you have a question about tools and resources for coastal and marine conservation and management that you would like to ask the EBM Tools Network, join their free discussion list at https://list.openchannels.org/mailman/listinfo/ebmtools_discuss and post your question to ebmtools_discuss@list.openchannels.org.