The Forest Game

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This simulation helps the participants understand the concept of sustainable development.

Time 60 minutes

Material 3 rooms, paper, matches

Group Size min. 6

Keywords Sustainability, Natural resources





The aim of the Forest Game is the offer the participants some insight into the process of sustainable forestry (or fishery) and all the variables that are involved in the process, which in the long run may make the process unsustainable.


Give the following instructions and afterwards, split the group in two smaller groups and send them to 3 separate rooms.

You are three families around a forest: family A, B and C. Your only income is from cutting trees. The forest is of twenty units of timber. This is the maximum potential. Each time period the forest recovers 100%.

Example: If the three families together cut twelve units of timber, eight will remain and in the next period there will be 16 units for harvest.

The objective is to get in the end as much wood as possible. You cannot communicate with your neighbors (even harder: you don’t see your neighbors – as you will be in three different rooms)! You write the number of the units you want to cut on a paper and hand it over to the simulation leader. This person will note all requests and tell the three teams how much units they’ll have for the next round. If there is a higher number on the paper than wood units to share family A will get first, then B and C at last. After five rounds there will be a forest conference where the three families have 5 minutes to talk to each other (create a strategy etc.). After that there will be another 5 rounds. After the break we will open all results and discuss the simulation.


The notes of the interesting sentences said by the players during the conference. Count how many units every family got in total and how many units the three families in total managed to get. What was exactly the objective?

For the reflection you can ask the following questions:

  • How did you feel – as family A, B, C?
  • What happened during the simulation?
  • How do you explain it?
  • How are we trained to think?
  • What factor does communication play?
  • What has this to do with sustainable development?
  • What can we learn from it?
  • How does economy work in our life?


It is very interesting to do the simulation twice: the first is the global version (they can’t see each other, don’t know who has cut how much). The second version is the local version (all on one table, facing each other, being able to communicate after round 3 and 7). Normally the local version would work much better and this is a very important learning: It’s easier to sustain a system and behave nicely if you know the others and see them! To prove it you could play one group first the local and then the global version.



Non-governmental organisation and facilitators network from Moldova for sustainable development, Education for Sustainable Development and environmental learning.