John Hunter invites his fourth-grade students to solve some of the most complex problems vexing human societies, and they do! A teacher given wide latitude to develop his own educational program for gifted students, Hunter developed the World Peace Game to stimulate the thinking and problem-solving of 9 and 10-year old minds. For Hunter world peace is not an elusive dream but an attainable goal.
The game is a complex political simulation played around a 4′ x 4′ x 4 ‘ plexiglass 4-level structure in which four nations compete politically, economically, militarily, and socially. An eight-week long simulation, the game involves the students taking on various roles of national leaders, international agencies, and even secret “troublemakers” (a great way to involve the kids in the class with this natural talent!). The goal of the game is for all the countries to be at peace and to advance economically, but they start in severe crisis and sometimes have unexpected crises develop as the sessions proceed.
Hunter was taught by his mother in a segregated school in Virginia, then went on to get a degree in Experimental Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. He had no idea what he would do, but the love of being experimental and the support of the principal who hired him opened the door to educational creativity, which in turn has opened the door to creativity and deep learning for his students. During his years of university study he travelled throughout Asia studying religions and philosophy. He encountered Gandhian thought and practice in India and became intrigued by nonviolence. He questioned how he as an educator could contribute to building peace in the world.
It all came together in 1978 when he was teaching at Richmond Community High School in Virginia where he launched the first World Peace Game. Since then the game has evolved and been refined from two dimensional to three and with new challenges to give to students. He doesn’t script the games and often has no idea how the students will solve problems. He has an abiding trust in the capacity of his students to find a way even out of seemingly intractable problems, which for Hunter brings hope to the entire human enterprise. These fourth graders who have taken on such incredible challenges will be the leaders to face similar challenges when it’s not a game.
A documentary film, “World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements,” was produced by Rosalia Films. It follows one 4th Grade class’ engagement with the game under the facilitation of Mr. Hunter. To order the DVD, click here. Here is the extended trailer for the film:
John Hunter shared more of his background and the growth of his vision for the World Peace Game in a 2011 TED Talk:
Hunter established the World Peace Game Foundation to make the resources available, to train facilitators, and to run a special camp for children ages 9-12 to participate in the game. To learn more about the World Peace Game and the Foundation, click here.