A few years ago, the Program on Negotiation Film Series screened “World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements,” a documentary film that follows John Hunter, a public school teacher in Virginia, and his class of fourth graders as they play a highly interactive game called the “World Peace Game.“ Hunter invented this game to teach principles of peace and negotiation in an interactive way while watching how children negotiate.
The game uses an ever-evolving 4×4 foot plexiglass structure to create an imaginary world with four countries and an elected cabinet of students. The point of the game is for the children to work together to learn how to use skillful negotiation to solve the world’s interlocking conflicts, with issues ranging from oil spills to famine to global warming. To make things more complicated, Hunter assigns one child to act as a saboteur who secretly tries to undermine the others’ good efforts. Hunter says this multifaceted game “helps the children to think more deeply about peaceful negotiations with other countries.”
Hunter’s style of teaching involves allowing the children to be in charge of developing their own outcomes when they negotiate. He occasionally offers suggestions on how negotiation skills can be used, but he considers himself more as a “clock-watcher” and “clarifier” in the game rather than as a participant.
Following the screening, filmmaker Chris Farina joined Hunter for a discussion of the film. Both agreed that the documentary has gained more press than they could have ever imagined. “It is more than a story about me; it’s a testament to teaching and teachers,” said Hunter.
Through the World Peace Game, Hunter discovered that children are intuitively good negotiators and that in a group they can collectively make valued decisions when they negotiate. Hunter also says that the children are learning that negative outcomes affect everyone. If the student commits to combat in the game, they have to write a letter to the parents of the sons and daughters who were killed. This helps the students understand the consequences of their actions.
Hunter hopes that through playing this game his students will develop critical thinking skills that they will carry into their adulthood, ideally moving towards a future in which world peace is not confined to a mere plexiglass structure in a classroom.
What do you think about this negotiation game for kids? Leave a comment.
To read more about John Hunter, please visit his website.
For more information about upcoming film screenings of the Program on Negotiation Film Series, please visit our website.
As a teacher I love this game, and actually started to write a similar one about 15 years ago.
Sadly, I can already imagine push back on this “game” from military persons who will debunk the sensitivity exercise(s) – write a letter to the parents of the sons and daughters who were killed – as anti-military and dangerous for soldiers who are purposely desensitized in order to perform the “kill” function. Certainly they will “develop critical thinking skills”, though are likely to be unfit for combat. That would leave our military at a disadvantage when if the children of other countries have not been playing the games as they developed.
That’s what I believe will be put forth by military persons. I, myself, support this game. 🙂
As a School Counselor, I coordinated activities for the GATE (gifted and talented education) program at middle school, and it was in the late 1990’s that we hosted a very similar activity for 7th graders. It was an outstanding experience! Students were prepped for several days before the event, as teachers assigned them to world regions, instructs them in basic history, regional resources, specific needs, etc. The “game” took place on a huge map of the world, with prepared students at their countries, and facilitators presented them with roles to play and problems to solve at the U.N. It was difficult, engaging and utterly worthwhile. I wish I could remember the name of the company, but it is heartening to see the concept lives on. It was a great educational experience!