World Peace Game & Teacher, John Hunter
by Emerson Sandow
There is a documentary film called World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements that is a must-see for any parent or teacher who wants insight into the fascinating capabilities of a fourth-grade class by watching one in in Charlottesville, Virginia in action. This is accomplished by playing a live action game invented by their teacher, Mr. John Hunter.
The original (simpler) version of the game was developed in 1978 by Mr. Hunter, who has expanded it into its current much more complex form. Mr. Hunter is an African American man who was raised in rural Virginia and who became a teacher after traveling to India, China and Japan. Mr. Hunter nurtures thinking in the classroom in a big way! He is a multi-grade teacher, who presents the World Peace Game to classes from 4th grade to high school. The film focuses on a 4th grade class and Hunter as he leads them through an 8-week journey of tackling 50 world problems in the roles of politicians, tribal leaders, thinkers, bankers, military leaders and cabinet ministers of four make-believe countries that can either attain peaceful co-existence or not — win the game by achieving world peace or lose the game by failing to achieve peace. One student is secretly chosen by Mr. Hunter to play a dual role, for instance, as prime minister of a country, but also as a secret global saboteur – who creates chaos and confusion at various junctures throughout the game to heighten the thought-provoking dimension.
Mr. Hunter’s approach to teaching through the game is to stimulate critical thinking, creative problem-solving, team work and awareness of peaceful co-existence without preaching. Moral discussions and other conversations about the complex problems of the world is good, but rolling up one’s sleeves and diving into solving them is way, way beyond the talking level. No doubt the students who have participated in the World Peace Game have carried away a deeper — maybe lifelong — insight into the real world issues that they addressed in the Game and may someday be able to provide positive influence in the real solution because of it. I wonder what the effect of playing the Game has on bullying in later grades? It seems that a bully might be changed by playing the Game for 8 weeks.
The film, envisioned and directed by Chris Farina, about the game is available on DVD or for download and it is likely that every teacher and every class will benefit from seeing the film, reading Mr. Hunter’s book by the same title, and putting some of his thinking to use in their own classrooms. For more information, visit www.rosaliafilms.com. E.S.