The phrase “world peace” is often a shorthand for naivety, the garden-variety answer supposedly invoked by many a vapid pageant contestant.
But Virginia educator John Hunter took the concept seriously, turning his ingeniously complex “World Peace Game” for fourth graders into an international phenomenon, thanks to a 2010 documentary “World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements.” It’s now being aired across the country on public television stations, including Georgia Public Broadcasting affiliates.
Hunter, who is coming to Atlanta next week to teach fellow educators a master class on his game, discussed its journey so far:
Q: What makes your game so special?
A: This game is on such a large scale with 30 players. It plunges them into uncertainty. The rules and situations change, with multiple consequences, most hidden. There’s a kind of chaotic randomness or adventure that makes it different. It starts with a competition and is designed to look competitive with different teams. About halfway through, they have a sudden realization that they are on the same side. Everything is interrelated. To win, they have to go into a hyper-collaborative state. Everyone has to win in order for the game to be won.
Q: How do you feel about the impact it’s had?
A: Frankly, I never thought it would have much impact beyond my own classroom if it had not been for a filmmaker. It’s naturally had much more impact than I ever dreamed and conceived. I’ve been to Norway multiple times. The documentary is aired in schools there. Teachers are writing us from all over the world. They watch the film and are inspired to do it themselves. They’re creating versions of “World Peace” in Hong Kong, Indonesia and India. We’re just humbled. It’s a joyous ride.
Q: Do you feel people underestimate the ability of fourth graders to think beyond themselves?
A: Of course! There’s such a huge untapped potential there. We think they don’t have much to contribute. In my classroom, we give them 50 problems in the world, large-scale problems. They crowd-source and come up with some beautiful solutions.
Here’s his TED Talk from 2011:
“World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements”
5 and 11 a.m. Thursday, 6 a.m. Friday, noon Saturday; GPB Knowledge.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk
(More info at www.worldpeacegame.org.)