Can Educational Games Foster World Peace?

The majority of educational games stacked on classroom shelves have common objectives – obtaining the most points, capturing opponents’ pieces or being first to cross the finish line.  But in John Hunter’s fourth grade classroom, his students play an educational game with a very different goal: world peace.

Hunter’s creation, the World Peace Game, is a hands-on political simulation that gives students the chance to explore ways in which the world is connected. But unlike other games, like Risk, which focuses on global domination, the World Peace Game challenges students to “achieve global prosperity with the least amount of military intervention.” In essence, that makes the World Peace Game pretty radical when compared to many other educational games.

Hunter’s game began in 1978 as a 4’ x 5’ plywood board, but has since become a 4-foot plexiglass cube with levels that represent the Earth, outer space, underground / undersea and the atmosphere.  Hunter kicks off the educational game by apologizing to students, saying,  “I’m so sorry, boys and girls, but the truth is we’ve left the world to you in such a sad and terrible shape, and we hope you can fix it for us and maybe this game will help you learn how to do it.”

Then he hands them a 13-page crisis document with 50 interrelated problems.  He assigns students roles varying from prime minister to weather goddess and challenges them to solve the problems which include real-world issues, such as nuclear proliferation and global climate change. Then he steps back and becomes a “clockwatcher” as his fourth-graders play.

The results? Students are definitely engaged. Hunter boasted that a particular fourth grade class once solved the global climate change problem in a week.

The ultimate goal of Hunter’s Foundation (WPGF) is to foster the concept that world peace really isn’t just something to dream about, but something that can be achieved. Along with that lofty goal come 22 core principles of the World Peace Game, ranging from teaching complex problem solving and collaboration, to being able to have two opinions on the same issue.

Philosophy, math, social studies, sciences and communication all work their way into this educational game, making it particularly effective in the learning environment. While playing the World Peace game, students also develop self-awareness as well as understanding and knowledge of real world conflicts.

Whether or not the World Peace Game is oversimplified or not, one thing is clear: Educational games with real world relevance are much more engaging for students — and world peace isn’t a bad curriculum objective, either.

The World Peace Game is not available online or anywhere else yet, but teachers can learn more about John Hunter’s educational games by watching John Hunter’s TED Talk video (above and here) or by visiting the World Peace Game Foundation’s website.

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