Fourth graders solving the world’s problems - The Daily Barometer: News

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Fourth graders solving the world’s problems

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 9:35 pm | Updated: 6:30 pm, Sun Jan 26, 2014.

Documentary screener shows teacher’s innovative approach

Imagine if global warming, war and poverty were abolished from the planet in a week. Imagine if the world was able to prosper together. That would be an amazing world.

More astounding is that fourth graders solve these problems on a weekly basis with the World Peace Game.

The city’s Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Commission and the Oregon State University School of History, Philosophy, and Religion hosted the film screening of “World Peace and other 4th Grade Achievements,” Wednesday at the Majestic Theater in downtown Corvallis.

The documentary, directed by Chris Farina, details the innovative teaching practices of John Hunter, who developed the World Peace Game for his fourth grade class.

The World Peace Game is an intense geo-political simulation with 50 interlocking goals. There are arms dealers, a world bank, saboteurs, United Nations and four countries in total, depending on the parameters of the instructor. 

For each country, there is a prime minister, secretary of defense and comptroller. 

Students are offered a job by Hunter and have the option of rejecting or accepting the job. Students selected as prime minister build their own cabinet.

Most of the simulation mimics real-life entities, but uses fictitious names to allow the students to think without preconceptions.

Through playing the game, Hunter wants his students to develop critical thinking and personal skills, without relying on outside influences such as media. 

“It’s a template for success and failure,” Hunter said. “I want to put them in a situation where conventions are destroyed.”

At the start of every game, Hunter gives students the same statement: “Our generation has left the world in a dire situation. It is up to you to solve for world peace. I don’t how to solve it and I am sorry.”

Hunter uses this phrase to encourage his students that world peace is possible to achieve, but that they will have to develop different ways to achieve it. 

In order to win the game, students must solve all 50 problems and all solutions must improve each country.

“The results are never the same,” Hunter said. “(Every game), I intentionally trap them into dire situations.” 

Roles like saboteurs and arms dealers consistently threaten the achievability of world peace. The students, quite often, are at odds with each other on how to reconcile.

Hunter does not advise the players on how to play. In playing this game, Hunter wants his students to lean to stop, look and listen.

“When you’re stopped, you have to look deeper and see through the situation,” Hunter said. “Looking is developing the awareness of the situation and not face value. And listening is turning to each other.”

Hunter preaches these qualities each game to his students because he believes it is critical to students’ development as people.

By solving the simulated geo-political issues, Hunter wants his students to develop the fundamentals of living and collaborating together.

Every soldier lost in battle requires the prime minister to write a letter to the soldier’s fake family explaining his death.

Hunter wanted the children to think about warfare before engaging in it.

“The letter writing caused them to slow down and think critically (about the actions of war),” Hunter said.

Since 1978, when Hunter began teaching with the game, it has gone on to be simulated in schools around the country and the world.

In 2011, Hunter spoke at a TED Talk, which publicized his World Peace Game. 

On occasion, the Pentagon invites Hunter’s class for in-depth discussions with the country’s top military generals.

Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning was in attendance at the screening Wednesday.

Oregon State University professor, Elizabeth Sheehan, attended the event “to witness the ways educators have found to change the world and use education as a social justice.”

“The children are the key to saving the planet because they dictate the way we are moving,” said Esmeralda Reyes, vice chair of MLK commission.

Spencer Ingram

News reporter

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