St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School Fourth Graders Establish World Peace
In March, St. Mark’s fourth graders launched themselves into a simulated game of war, conflict, and crisis. Two months later, they achieved something greater than even the most powerful on earth have yet to achieve – peace.
For over 30 years John Hunter, an educator and creator of the World Peace Game
, has been teaching fourth graders and their teachers how to play a complex, immersive, interactive, collaborative, and geopolitical game. The overarching goal is to bring out the best in every child through role playing in a fictional yet realistic world on the brink of economic, social, and environmental crisis. Hunter designed the game “to equip students with the skills they need in order to face the problems and uncertainties of the real world.”
Fourth grade teachers, Mrs. Brooks Gallagher and Mrs. Bridgett Stroud, studied and attended trainings and master classes to bring the game to St. Mark’s. “From the moment I heard John Hunter as the keynote speaker at the Florida Council of Independent Schools Annual Conference, I knew we could bring this game here and our students would greatly benefit,” said Mrs. Gallagher. “We are now one of only a hundred schools all over the world, and one of the only ones in the state of Florida, who have completed the game in its 30 years of existence.”
When the game began, students were faced with a four-level plexi glass game board representing underground, land and sea, air, and outer space. Divided into four fictitious nations, every student had a role, some of which include a Prime Minister, a Cabinet Member, an Arms Dealer, a Secretary General of the United Nations, a Saboteur, and a Weather Goddess (who also controls the stock market). The nations were unique as well, with one being very wealthy, one oil-rich, one poor, and one philosophically mandated to protect the earth. To achieve world peace, students had to negotiate and resolve their way through many crises (including climate change, chemical warfare, refugees, religious conflict, and tsunamis) and achieve global prosperity.
At the beginning, the game is deliberately created to be overwhelming and chaotic in order to encourage complex problem solving in collaborative yet competitive scenarios. “Before starting the game, we held a meeting to explain the process to parents,” said Mrs. Stroud. “We knew this was going to be a challenge for the students, both intellectually and emotionally, and we wanted parents to know how to best support their child.”
As the game progressed, students had conversations and conflicts and had to come up with their own resolutions. This process led them to think globally, think about what others may need, and truly learn how to negotiate. “You have to be smart by thinking before doing. A good negotiator has to be tough,” said fourth grader, Madeline W.
The game also involved extensive reading comprehension and a lot of math. Auditors from the World Bank were always around to keep budgets in check. Structure was also important. There was a specific protocol during game play for interacting with each other, everyone was referred to as Mr. or Ms. in their various roles. Every student’s role was equally important, as during occasional absences for illness, students kept in touch via skype to stay in the game.
“At the beginning I only thought about doing things for myself,” said student, Richard N. “But later on I figured out you had to help do things for everyone.”
To win the game, the student’s nations, named RDK, ROGSTONIA, CRUSSIA, and JOCHRICOR, preferred peace treaties to war, assisted each other during disasters, and negotiated their way to prosperity for all. “I don’t think there is one right way to solve every problem,” said fourth grader, Kyle C. “There are always new ideas, inventions, and solutions from all sides that come together.”
After Word Peace was established, students nominated their peers to be recognized for their leadership during the game:
World Peace Game Human Rights Award 2016 For Meritorious Awareness, Creativity, Compassion and Service Above and Beyond the Ordinary, this award was given to Sophie B. for upholding and supporting the rights of those less able to help or defend themselves, and inspiring others to do the same.
World Peace Game Outstanding All Around Player Award 2016 For Outstanding Efforts Contributing to World Peace in the World Peace Game, this award was given to Richard N.
World Peace Game Peace Prize 2016 For Outstanding Efforts Contribution to World Peace In the World Peace Game, This Award was given to Madeleine W.
“That kind of collaboration, I don’t have to teach it, I don’t have to preach it. If you can allow the learning to happen organically, and it comes from within their own experience, it’s so much richer and deeper and it lasts so much longer than if it’s imposed from outside.”
~John Hunter, Creator of World Peace Game