John Hunter, named one of Time magazine’s top 12 education activists, and whose talk on TED was voted 2011’s “Most Influential,” spoke at Harker in early October as part of the Common Ground Speaker Series.
Hunter, who is also an award-winning teacher, discussed his invention of the “World Peace Games,” which he described as a “geopolitical simulation” that is played mostly by students in grade 4 but is suitable for all ages, and focuses on building problem-solving skills by having students address problems occurring in the real world. Students play various roles in the game, such as world leaders, cabinet members and even arms dealers. Some students are even given roles of great power, such as the ability to control the weather or determine if a business venture will succeed. Aside from facilitating, asking questions and signaling the beginning and end of every game session, Hunter never directly intervenes.
Students must use the power they have been given in each role to solve the problems presented to them. Every country in the game must also have its asset value raised by the time it ends. “In other words, everybody has to win for the game to be won,” Hunter said. In addition, he makes Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” required reading for all students participating in the game.
The Common Ground event included a viewing of a documentary film from 2006 that showed Hunter’s students working together to finish the game successfully. In the 34 years that he has been running the game for his students, Hunter said, “They have never failed to save the world. They do it in different ways every time.”