“The World Peace Game seems too good to be true. A game that overwhelms the players with difficult dilemmas, while challenging kids to think beyond their normal capacity, while also engaging them to such an extent that they go home and voluntarily research advanced topics? This seems fantastical, but the World Peace Game exceeded my expectations.” This was Kennon Snead’s (7th grade social studies teacher at Rifle Middle School in Rifle, CO) comment about his experience observing the World Peace Game the week of July 7th at Rutgers Preparatory School. Kennon was a participant in the teacher Master Class where teachers from around the world watched John Hunter facilitate the playing of the World Peace Game. After observing the Game in the morning, teachers participated in an afternoon, Master Class workshop where they were inspired and encouraged to rethink their teaching methods to help students learn through more student led experiences.
As explained on the World Peace Game Foundation website, “The World Peace Game is a hands-on political simulation that gives players the opportunity to explore the connectedness of the global community through the lens of the economic, social, and environmental crises and the imminent threat of war. The goal of the game is to extricate each country from dangerous circumstances and achieve global prosperity with the least amount of military intervention. As “nation teams,” students will gain greater understanding of the critical impact of information and how it is used….In essence, as meaning is constructed out of chaos and new creative solutions are proposed, World Peace Game players will learn to live and work comfortably at the frontiers of the unknown.” John Hunter is an award-winning gifted teacher and educational consultant who has dedicated his life to helping children realize their full potential. He encourages educators to turn towards student-led experiences rather than the more traditional teacher led models. The World Peace Game serves as such an example. For more information on John Hunter and the World Peace Game go to the World Peace Game Foundation website at www.worldpeacegame.com.
The World Peace Game at RPS – A Story
“Do you accept the position of Secretary General of the United Nations?” asks John Hunter. A tall, striking young 13 year-old girl stands and accepts the position to applause and encouragement from the group in the room. Thus began the playing of the World Peace Game. John continued, offering the lead position at the World Bank, the head of the arms dealers, and the prime ministership of the 4 countries comprising the game. The drama unfolded as the four prime ministers chose their cabinets. The first day ended with the four countries being named and presented: The Republic of Arcteria- the ice country which was the poorest of the four, Rojolé - the desert country, Reavers- the richest country, and the Federation of Bluestone – an ecologically minded country.
The students patiently listened for the first two days of the week as John Hunter described in detail the complex world of the World Peace Game represented by the four storied plexi-glass board with a myriad of plastic pieces representing critical resources in the game. This world, not unlike the real world in which we all live, was comprised of countries with varied levels of natural, financial, and military resources, as well as various ethnic and religious groups and levels of internal strife and conflict. The relationships between these countries were complex and not easily balanced.
It seemed to be a daunting expectation for the 4th through 8th graders to remember and understand the tremendous detail that was being laid out for them. Throughout the second day, John plowed through a document of twenty-two crises that were impacting their world and that would need to be resolved in order for this group to win the World Peace Game. In resolving these crises, they needed to ensure that each country had more money than with what they started. The students went home with the brains full of crises, possible solutions, numbers and so much more. Play would begin the next morning.
The excitement was palpable as the students entered Wednesday morning. What started as din, increased to full blown chaos as the start time of 8:30 approached. Prime Ministers met with their cabinets (Secretary of State, Minister of Defense, and CFOs) as they began to strategize how they would tackle the innumerable crises that had befallen their nations. Country leaders ran willy-nilly seeking out advice from the United Nations and World Bank to understand what possibilities were available to them. At 8:30, the bell rang and everyone sank to their seats and quiet fell on the room as Mr. Hunter called Day 1 of the Game to order. Through the first turns of the game, students appeared unsure of their actions and questioned themselves. They would ask, “Can I do this….?” Mr. Hunter would answer, “Can you afford it, and can you live with the consequences?” This was his standard answer to their questions. His goal was to disappear in the room and to eventually have the students run their own game. To do this, he had to show them that they had the abilities to make these decisions on their own, if they took the time to think it all through.
Over the course of the rest of the week, observers saw these students grow and mature. Eventually they were able to rise from their seats with confidence as any true world leader and would say, “I am Prime Minister Hariharan of Rojolé, and I speak on behalf of the people of Rojolé. These are my declarations.” These students understood that they held in their hands the responsibility for an entire nation and the greater world. They knew that their actions did not only impact themselves. They took their roles and responsibilities seriously.
The game ended on Friday morning with a frenzy of activity. At the beginning of the day, there were still 5 crises that needed to be solved and one country whose budget was less than where they had begun. Within two hours, these world leaders worked diligently to solve the remaining crises and grow the budgets of all the countries. Around 11:00 am, the Secretary General of the United Nations announced, “I announce this World Peace Game won!” Cheers erupted in the room from all the participants, their parents, and the teachers who had assembled to watch. The students’ excitement was unmistakable and their pride in having accomplished “world peace” on their own was evident. They could do anything that they set their mind to, and they were only limited by what they were willing to try.
When asked about her experience, Chloe Loughridge, a 13 year-old rising 8th grader at the Pounohou School in Hawaii said, “I really appreciated this camp. Before taking the camp, the problems that were plaguing the world today always seemed sort of distant. Being in camp made me realize that there will come a time when the next generation will have to step up and take a role of leadership in society. It forced us to work in the grey zone of moral reasoning. That was a great experience.”
Taylor Kerr, a 6th grader currently being homeschooled in Columbus, OH said, “I thought camp was great for this next generation to experience politics and how to solve world problems without having to fall face first into the real problems, so that when we actually have to do it, we can solve the problems. Maybe someone here invented a solution that will help save the world.”
John Hunter and his World Peace Game clearly inspired and motivated many of the students. Even parents of the campers were duly impressed by what they saw and by the transformation exhibited in their child. Robin Moyle of Florida explained, “I was a little nervous in the beginning but I had high hopes for it, and it exceeded my hopes. She [her daughter] was not fazed by all the things that were thrown at her. I do feel that this should be mandatory in every school to create good citizens.”
The World Peace Game seemed to give the students a glimpse of their own power and potential. It showed them the possibilities of what they can do when they believe in themselves and take those leaps of faith. This innovative educational experience aims to provide students with the skills needed to solve the world’s future problems. Perhaps one day, one of these students will be able to declare the World Peace Game won for real and achieve what adults so far have been unable to accomplish.