Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Next Year We Should Have Trillions"

It happened again. I watched a TedTalk (by John Hunter) and got inspired.  

  • His fourth graders solved 50 world crises?! 
  • That game board is so cool!
  • We'd learn so much by trying that!
  • It looks impossible to implement and figure out!
  • Can't wait to read his book!
I work at an alternative school.  We teach the .01% of our district's students who have not been able to be successful in their home school.  Whenever I thought about the World Peace Game, it seemed like our students might not have what it takes to play the game.

Hunter states in his book:
"Students must: possess a certain “intellectual stamina” and be able to wrestle with tough problems that are without quick or easy resolution, over time; be able to interact constructively with others much different from themselves (diversity as much as possible); be able to forestall closure and handle the certain frustrations of endless challenges and conflicts as they collaborate to achieve peace."

Well...our students are placed at our school for the very reason that they have NOT shown the ability to do the very things Hunter lists as required traits. 

So I waited a couple of years until I couldn't stand it any longer...and the time seemed right. My co-teacher is amazing and always willing to jump off metaphorical cliffs with me. So. We jumped.

Reading John's book was helpful, but he is very non-prescriptive. We had to figure out almost everything on our own. Hunter travels around the world and teaches the World Peace Game internationally, but that was not an option for us. Luckily, his book and TedTalk gave enough inspiration and information for us to give it a shot.

We had to adapt many aspects of the game. John Hunter, as far as I can tell, does the game with one full class of 20+ fourth graders all together in one room. We have four separate small classes of middle schoolers. So each of our first three classes became a country, and our fourth class became the United Nations/World Bank.

Hunter's game board is four levels high and takes 3 hours to set up! Ours needed to be sturdy, safe and easily moved. We created a flat game board using corrugated plastic cardboard from Lowes, and used putty and a hot glue gun to attach objects as we played. The students loved the game board! We had a crisis list of 20 crises, reduced from Hunter's 50.

As Hunter does in his games, we chose the Prime Ministers, and the Prime Ministers then chose and nominated their cabinet members for their class. Students could accept or refuse their nominations. All but one accepted. Each student had a job in the cabinet. These were posted on our interactive bulletin board.

Since collaboration skills are integral to success in complex problem solving, we used a business meeting format with the BIE Collaboration Rubric to structure the game for each class.

The Prime Ministers gradually learned to run the business meetings using the printed meeting Agendas, with lots of support from staff. We played the game almost daily for a six-week time period, and then spent a week reflecting.

By the end, all 20 world crises had been solved, the game board was intact and more complex due to additions of a college and electricity (among other things), and there was no tangible reward asked for or given. Leaders emerged, artists created, math whizzes excelled, collaboration improved, and fun was had.

We won.
That was the reward.

In the video, you will see more details about the Game, the classroom, and what the students thought about the experience.

I will end with this -
It was fun.
We all learned a lot.
I can't wait to do it again next year.
Enough said.


  1. This post is more valuable than gold to me (but if you want to send me some gold, you can attach it to the postcard). Thank you Thank you Thank you.

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  3. Plus (and you'll appreciate this) I'm psyched to make our new game board! I'll share what I come up with.

  4. Kevin, one of the countries mined for gold, so I will ask them to share some with you. Thank you for your kind comments! I could have literally written a book about this experience but reminded myself of TLDR! I'm more than willing to share specific resources and what worked/didn't work. Lots worked, lots didn't work LOL. Some things worked that we didn't plan for. The beauty of it for me (after 23 years of teaching) was trying something completely new, and having the support of my admin and team of teachers. And of course, watching the kids do things that no one thought they could do.

  5. Hard to describe the hope-filled glow this post gives me. Play is good. Play for its own sake is best and fiercest. I lovehow this comes off as one part engineering (how do I manage to get this done) and religion (I believe, I believe, I believe). Thanks for keeping on. You and your playmates inspire me.

  6. You want to hear about odd symmetry? I was just finishing the end of a book about Buckminster Fuller (You Belong to the Universe by Jonathan Keats) when a reference to Fuller's Peace Game was explained. It was Bucky's attempt to show how natural resources could be allocated in a way that would eliminate war and create harmony among natures. He played it on college campuses, and tried to get the US government on board. Sound familiar? I wonder if John Hunter read Fuller. (I am not reading Hunter's book.)

  7. Hmmmm Kevin THAT is really interesting!

  8. Terry if can make you glow about teaching, my day is made. It truly was a great experience. A true team effort with staff and students. Still pondering how to improve it for the fall. Two alumni "kids" from Hunters video (all grown up now)are now researching the long-term impact of the game on kids who play it.

  9. Terry if can make you glow about teaching, my day is made. It truly was a great experience. A true team effort with staff and students. Still pondering how to improve it for the fall. Two alumni "kids" from Hunters video (all grown up now)are now researching the long-term impact of the game on kids who play it.

  10. Hmmmm Kevin THAT is really interesting!

  11. super helpful. in addition to digital literacy for seniors (ongoing project in stealth mode), less chaos in Housing Authority meetings are another item. I looked at this and thought damn if 4th graders can, so can we... plasticity advantage not withstanding...