When fourth-grade teacher John Hunter created the World Peace Game 34 years ago, his goal was to evoke in his students an interest in learning by appealing to their passions. From his mission, bloomed a now-famous game that thoroughly engages children to resolve conflicts through thinking critically, creatively, and collaboratively. Hunter revealed this and more when he visited Nueva in October where he spoke to our faculty and staff, then later to a crowd of parents gathered for a Common Ground presentation.
"Students leave seeing they can handle anything," John said regarding the myriad lessons his pupils take from the 8-week game.
John sets up the game to ensure children will face extreme obstacles and challenges that "they have to think their way out of."
"I want [the game] to be so thrilling that they don't want to do without it, but so challenging that they almost can't do it...that kind of tension is where learning occurs," he said in a video he showed during his talk.
John explained that the World Peace Game is a hands-on political simulation, in which children explore the global community while solving economic, social, and environmental crises. With the threat of war looming, fourth graders must extricate themselves from precarious situations and attain prosperity while minimizing military force. Student groups are divided into nations. Each country has a prime minister, secretary of state, and a defense minister. There are also arms dealers, a saboteur, as well as the United Nations and World Bank. Some children are assigned leadership roles, while other leaders are selected by classmates.
Though John establishes the game for his students, as time passes it becomes their game and "they are empowered to be in charge of their own learning." During the two-month project, students learn indispensable skills that he hopes benefit them for life.
"I hope that they never need me again, that I have put myself out of a job, that they have everything that they could have possibly gotten from this experience, from me, from my influence or whatever it might have been, and that they take away every tool -- every creative thinking tool, every critical thinking tool they can, and they have a confidence that they can solve any problem, that they can deal with anything," he said in the video.
"They consistently discover that the point is to increase compassion and decrease suffering," he said.
Both overtly and implicitly, John vigorously expressed a value for compassion throughout the evening. He also offered sage advice gathered from teaching as well as parenting. John suggested that while raising and educating one's children, parents should try to always be mindful of children's wisdom, participate in a partnership with teachers, sustain patience for the long term (over 10 and 20 years!) as children take time to blossom, maintain hope, and express love.
Check out John's students playing the World Peace Game here. John's book World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements will be released in April 2013.