Saving Skidgits: Using a Game to Model Protected Area Management


  • Jim McNeil George Mason University; Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation



active learning, active learning classrooms, learning spaces, teaching online, STEM education, digital tools, collaborative learning, experiential learning, student engagement, student motivation, creativity


Games and simulations as instructional tools help students process material using multiple avenues of inquiry and engage in different learning styles simultaneously. Developing and modifying a strategy as part of a game gives students the opportunity to practice critical thinking skills and can lead to a deeper understanding of subject material. Simulations are particularly useful in illustrating scenarios where there are multiple paths to a successful outcome. To take advantage of these benefits, I developed a simulation game to illustrate principles of protected area management as part of the Wildlife Ecology for Conservation curriculum at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. In the simulation, students are given the role of managers for a protected area and are tasked with keeping a fictitious species, the skidgit, alive for two years. Students set their management goals and are able to use resources to protect and manage their skidgit populations in the face of stressors presented as the simulation unfolds. Throughout the simulation, students are asked to balance needs and resources to meet their management goal. Evaluations of the activity indicate students have an increased understanding of the challenges and processes involved in managing protected areas and have fun learning.

Author Biography

Jim McNeil, George Mason University; Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation

Jim is an assistant professor for the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.






4:15pm-5:30pm POSTER SESSION (Group A- 4:15-4:45pm)