World Peace… and other 4th grade achievements

As an adult, I’ve been involved with an inter-agency simulation, here in the Washington, DC area sponsored by the United States Institute for Peace called Strategic Economic Needs and Security Exercise (SENSE). SENSE has been used in peace talks across the world and is a great resource and training tool for governmental leaders and public servants who wish to understand the complexities of war and building sustainable peace in a conflict, or post-conflict country.

This all sounds very boring (yawn), right? To be honest, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my (adult) life. Over a three day period, these often well-known and extremely intelligent adults are brought back to their basics: scheming, negotiating, collaborating and finding creative solutions to current world issues. We’ve done simulations for inter-agency adults who are ruthless, to Conflict Analysis and Peace Operation students who are actually too collaborative and sometimes unrealistic; but I’ve always wondered, how would children react?

Little did I know, an educator named John Hunter has been playing this simulation with his 4th grade classes for more than 25 years and loving every surprising and challenging moment along the way. Here he is speaking about his experiences on Ted Talks in 2011:

What I find most amazing about the idea of holding ‘World Peace Games’ for classrooms of children is that they have the opportunity to face struggles, frustrations, and conflict with peers head on while finding creative solutions through negotiation, collaboration, effective communication, and most importantly- without violence. These are traits I wish I had learned at any level before college, which is sadly when and where I’ve learned most of them. Additionally, it gives children the idea that they are intelligent, realistic, and smart individuals who can find the solution to relevant and world-wide issues; and hopefully, the confidence to solve any other problems that evolve in their day-to-day life. Plus, it’s fun!

This is probably why John Hunter was named in Time Magazine as one of the 12 Education Activists of 2012, and was also featured in a documentary based around his experiences with 4th graders and the World Peace Games; which you can see the trailer.

Personally, I think this model is highly applicable at any level of school. John Hunter’s website World Peace Game features details on what the game is and how to play it although unfortunately, it appears as though they don’t give exact instructions; only the ability to contact John Hunter and have him teach your class the game. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t implement your own similar simulation with the same basic formula: 5 countries, specific resources, a driving issue, and a board in which they can actively witness the consequences or benefits of their actions…

For teachers, administrators, and school systems who are unsure, can watch the movie and judge for themselves; or better yet, show it to their students and gauge their interest in playing the game themselves…

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