Game: SMARTIC Arctic Case Study

Author: Stephanie Pfirman Contributing Author: Patrick Callahan Contributing Author: Jessica Brunacini

Updated 1/29/24 by the ARC-NAV team with support from NSF #1928235, including instructions for online play

Initial Publication Date: April 29, 2016


Arctic SMARTIC: Strategic Management of Resources in Times of Change

Students work together to devise a consensus strategy to steward the Arctic marine region into the future. After a brief synopsis of current issues and approaches, students are assigned to 6-7 rights holder and stakeholder roles. Based on the text and maps provided to them, students identify 3 priority areas of interest, negotiate conflicts, and develop a sustainable, multi-use stewardship plan for at least one region where priorities overlap. The teams are then confronted with a crisis, and re-evaluate their plans based on this experience.  Through this role play simulation, students come to understand how the priorities of Arctic rights holders and stakeholders interact and change over time and space. 

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Learning Goals

In this lesson, students will:

  • Review and analyze the priorities of Arctic rights holders and stakeholders
  • Strategize a stewardship plan for the future Arctic marine region
  • Engage in discourse around responses to Arctic change, balancing cultural, social, and economic interests

Context for Use

The Arctic SMARTIC (Strategic Management of Resources in Times of Change) activity is an interactive, role-play scenario. It is best suited for high school students, college and graduate students, and lifelong learners.

Description and Teaching Materials

As summer sea ice continues to retreat in the Arctic, there is growing interest, both locally and internationally, in accessing and developing Arctic assets that have previously been unavailable such as hydrocarbons, fish and other natural resources.

At the same time, there are concerns about changes in the quantity and quality of sea ice habitat and what impact that will have on the Arctic ecosystem as well as those who rely on ice as a platform for transportation, hunting, and fishing, and other livelihood purposes.

Arctic SMARTIC is a simulation activity that gives players an active understanding of what it means to be a rights holder or stakeholder dealing with the interests of others in the rapidly changing Arctic.

Materials needed:

In person

  • Intro PowerPoint (w/facilitator notes) – review this in class
  • Printed copies of role and reference sheets play sheets – best to have players only view their own role sheets to begin with
  • Print out of the the Arctic SMARTIC main gameplay map – best to make this as large as possible
    • Clear acetate to lay on top of the map, or laminate it
    • Dry erase markers, one color for each rights holder or stakeholder


  • Intro PowerPoint (w/facilitator notes) – create video and distribute in advance
  • Send individual role and reference sheets to 1 or 2 people in the team – best to do this in advance
  • Send main game play map to team leader
  • Send team to breakout room
  • Team leader shares screen, players use whiteboard to mark priority areas on the map
  • Call everyone back from breakout rooms and pose the crisis, then send them back to the breakouts to discuss it
  • Call all teams back for debriefing

Attached below are the Arctic SMARTIC activity materials.

Lesson Plan smartic_lesson_plan_10_13_23_sp.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 1.1MB Jan29 24)

Introductory Presentation smartic_intro_presentation_1_29_24.pptx (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.1MB Jan29 24)

Videos of instructions available -- contact

Main Map SMARTIC Main Map (Acrobat (PDF) 690kB May1 17)

Stakeholder Roles with Maps updated SMARTIC roles with maps 1_25_24.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 15.8MB Jan29 24)

Scenarios: Bering Scenarios_Bering_1_29_24.pptx (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 478kB Jan29 24), Arctic ScenariosandRandomEvents_SP (1).docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.8MB Jan29 24)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The SMARTIC activity requires a minimum of 60 minutes.

Faculty Preparation Before Class:

  • Assign readings
  • Print or distribute 1 large Arctic map for each team
  • Print or distribute stakeholder role-play materials


Homework to Collect and Grade

Evaluate responses to the following questions:

  • List key Arctic rights holders and stakeholders and their interests that would need to be taken into account in developing a stewardship plan for the Arctic marine environment. What information is missing about these rights holders and stakeholders.  What rights holders and stakeholders are missing? 
    • Which rights holders/stakeholders are typically in alignment?
    • Which are typically in conflict?
    • Which rights holders/stakeholders stand to gain most with Arctic change?
    • Which stand to gain least?
  • How did players in your group resolve issues and develop strategies?
    • How did responding to the crisis influence the strategies?
  • How effective was this simulation in helping you to:
    • Identify key issues related to Arctic climate change?
    • Understand multiple rights holders and stakeholder perspectives?
    • Engage in problem-solving and decision-making?
    • If others played this simulation, what would they learn?
  • List Arctic information questions regarding science, culture, society, economics, governance, etc. that are important to resolve in order to create a consensus-based Arctic marine stewardship plan
  • Evaluate role play materials and experience: how could the simulation be changed to be more informative?
  • Reference at least two of your readings in your written response (using MLA citation)

References and Resources

Arctic Matters Booklet

Reading assignment to be completed in advance of the Arctic SMARTIC case study

Arctic Marine Shipping

Recommended reading for the Arctic SMARTIC case study: executive summary (p. 2-7) and the Scenario section (p. 92-121).

Arctic Impact Assessment Highlights

Recommended reading for the Arctic SMARTIC interactive case study

USGS Arctic Resource Appraisal

Recommended reading for the Arctic SMARTIC interactive case study.


White Arctic vs. Blue Arctic: A case study of diverging stakeholder responses to environmental change

Recommended reading for the Arctic SMARTIC interactive case study. 


The rapidly changing Arctic and its societal implications 

Recommended reading for the Arctic SMARTIC interactive case study.