If there’s one thing all teachers have been asking, one question on the tip of the tongue but that has never been answered since the beginning of formal education, is just one word: How? Time and time again, numerously inventive ways of education have been tried and tested, from the oldschool Victorian-era disciplinary ways to the new-age enthusiasm with technology and the cloud. But at the heard of all education is the student. The student is the one who learns and thus they must be the one who is focused on, one man has realized this and made visionary steps into a better world.
That man is John Hunter and his revolutionary idea has impacted his students in a way he never thought possible, he has brought about a means for solving some of the world’s most prominent issues. By setting up an almost-table-top-war-campaign-game simulation, he has allowed his students to see the issues plaguing the world, from war to lack of resources and famines, natural disasters, ethnic and religious tensions, and even politics.
The structure is a four by four by four foot Plexiglas 3D structure with four layers including an outer space layer to simulate space exploration, a sky layer with clouds to simulate weather, a ground and sea layer for human civilization and natural occurrences and even an undersea layer to provide space for submarines and undersea volcanoes. The main focus of the game is typically around the four countries on the ground and sea layer and these countries are each run by a group of the students in the classroom. Each country operates and plays completely differently with some being rich, some being poor, some focused on commercial means and some in more natural environments.
What’s more interesting is the students roles within these countries, with each country being appointed a Prime Minister with a cabinet consisting of a Secretary of State, a Minister of Defence and a Comptroller, each running the areas of the Economy, Military and Academic infrastructures respectively, these are maintained alongside a World Bank, Arms Dealers and United Nations and see extra players take these roles, as well as a Weather God/Goddess who maintains the weather and stock market within parameters and a Saboteur who attempts to undermine all structures whilst attaining their own goal of world peace who may provide misinformation and the like to attempt to cause issues between groups.
The rules are detailed with a thirteen-page document of crises consisting of over fifty problems which may or may not trigger one another, more often than not causing a large knock-on effect. These crises include ethnic and minority tensions, chemical and nuclear spills, environmental disasters, water rites disputes, breakaway republics, famine, endangered species and even global warming. On top of this documentation, each game start sees a reading from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ which not only provides insight into how to negotiate and wage war effectively but also how to minimize war and fall back out of war more quickly, effectively and efficiently, all the time encouraging those to avoid the paths to power and subsequent destruction. The aim of the game is simple: To solve each of these fifty crises and raise the value of each country’s assets above its starting point.
The entire time, Hunter sits back and helps to clarify terms, clear up situations and keep an eye on the time to help move progress forwards. In his own words: “I’m just a clock-watcher. I’m just a clarifier. I’m just a facilitator. The students run the game, I have no chance to make any policy whatsoever once they’ve started playing.” And this pushes the focus onto the students and on the students taking an initiative in their learning. This sort of education encourages students to rapidly develop a mind set for advancement of their own knowledge and research into their own learning, allowing one to quickly realize how much potential there is for growth and how interesting world matters are if students are involved in such an engaging way.
Stunningly, the most powerful force in the game, the meta-game strategy, the tactics that win all and end all, is made apparent in one lesson: At the end of the eight weeks with one group of students, Hunter sees that there are five minutes left on the clock and that one country in particular was about to lose the game as they are dug so deep into debt and so far into economic and resource-based turmoil that they simply couldn’t win. Although all fifty crises were solved and all other countries had raised their own assets’ value above the starting point, the one remaining country, with five minutes left on the clock, was destined to lose. Suddenly, the president of the largest country called a meeting and when it dispersed, he announced that each of the other countries had pooled their resources into $600 Billion as a donation to the failing country, pulling its asset values up to a winning point and allowing the game to be won.
Absolutely incredible, it just goes to show just what the ultimate strategy for the world may well be and what may save us all one day. If these nine-year-old fourth-grade children could solve it then so should our world leaders be able to. That strategy, as Hunter puts it, is simply “Spontaneous Compassion.”
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[World Peace Game: Website]