July 20, 2024


Science It Works

FWC offers new educational online games for young anglers

FLORIDA — Educators of all stripes have long known the value of presenting information in the form of games. People just seem to better retain knowledge or lessons when learning is fun.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the latest organization to board the “edutainment” train, with an online suite of five games aimed at teaching young players about the rules and best practices of saltwater fishing in the Sunshine State.

What You Need To Know

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission now has fishing games on its website

  • The five games are designed to educate and inform younger anglers about marine species and care

  • The games can be played in a web browser

“We have some staff that have been talking for many, many years about creating some sort of cool game,” says Amanda Nalley of FWC’s Marine Fisheries Management department. “When COVID hit, it became even more important, during this time when we couldn’t really reach out in person — especially to the kids who are our future anglers and the future of the fishery.”

The FWC’s new suite of games. (FWC/Screenshot)

The “Gone Fishin’” web application features five games playable in a web browser. “Let’s Go Fishing” teaches players what equipment they’ll need to fish from both a boat and the shore, then lets them cast a line to pull in a variety of species. “Fish Handling” is a more directly educational experience consisting of a video and subsequent quiz. “Heal the Reef” encourages participants to catch invasive lionfish and remove them from three different underwater environments (and skill levels) by clicking on them and dragging them into a net, while cleaning debris such as aluminum cans and discarded coffee cups from the ocean floor. “Fish Dissection” takes visitors through the process of a lionfish autopsy and offers an anatomy lesson using popular game fish the red drum or redfish as a model, while “Habitat Matching” teaches which environments a variety of Florida saltwater fish call home.

“Let’s Go Fishing” with FWC’s educational new games. (FWC/Screenshot)

Most of the games are aimed squarely at the 8-10 age range — Nalley says fourth graders were the initial target demographic for the concept — while the “Fish Dissection” option was created for junior high or high schoolers who might soon be experiencing real-world biology class dissections. But interested parties of all ages can find interesting new facts and diverting elements in “Gone Fishin’” as well, particularly those younger than the intended age who have already expressed an interest in angling or marine biology in general.

Educational technology creator Pubbly — a company known for interactive ebooks as well as games — built “Gone Fishin’,” and the five components are designed appropriately for younger audiences, with easy point-and-click controls and simple voiceover instructions.

The “Fish Dissection” game is the most directly educational. (FWC/screenshot)

Nalley says the web application evolved from a desire on the part of FWC’s lionfish division to create another tool to educate the public on this rapacious invader, which poses a serious threat to Florida’s inshore and nearshore marine ecosystems.

“They had the funding to sort of start the process,” she says. “They found Pubbly, and they reached out to our education and education people about making the games more inclusive.”

The FWC is reaching out to the fishing clubs with which it works to help spread the word about “Gone Fishin’,” adding that the games have garnered interest from various museums and science centers around the state.

“We’re always looking for bigger and better ways to reach more people,” she says. “It’s a big state and we’re a small staff, and if you can’t go to the people [during COVID] you can always help more people come to you.”