I recently discovered a new personal hero. If you haven’t stumbled upon his work already, John Hunter’s teaching, recounted in his book World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements, is truly inspirational. His work, worthy of both high praise and considerable attention, centers on a game of his own invention, in which his fourth grade students learn powerful lessons about how the world works, including how to get along with others, what diplomacy actually looks like, and how to think strategically. His work has a profound impact on his students’ hearts and minds, as well as on their trajectories in life.
The game is a phenomenal example of project-based learning. It’s physical, active, contemplative, intellectual, tactile, and remarkably complex. It centers around a four-level Plexiglas board, with individual levels representing oceans, land, air and outer space. Children are appointed roles, such as prime minister, finance minister, weather goddess, military commander and weapons dealer. They are then presented with secret dossiers on their fictitious countries, and the conflicts they face over scarce resources such as food, oil, and jobs, with a mandate to resolve these conflicts.
As in the real world, resources and wealth vary considerably. Faced with complex, real-world dilemmas, the kids dive into tasks that have overwhelmed adult populations across the planet throughout history, and continue to do so today. The difference is, John’s students generally do find solutions.
Within the SHAPED context, Hunter’s work is a stellar example of positive schooling on both an academic ad behavioral level. Hunter provides an astounding model of how schooling can be done right.
Fortunately, the word is getting out about Hunter’s work. Get a taste by picking up World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements in book form, (http://www.worldpeacegame.org/the-book ), tuning in to his TED talk
or catching the film, which is currently available through their website, www.worldpeacegame.org.
A few days after posting this blog entry, I received a note from Chris Farina, at the Worldpeacegame.org:
Thanks so much. Our success has always been dependent on others sharing the word about John’s great work with children. A small correction, and not one that really matters but just for your own knowledge, the film actually pre-dated the book and the TED talk. In fact it played an important role in bringing John to the attention of the TED folks. We never had much of a budget to help us get the word out, and had very little luck in generating press attention, so it was basically a word-of-mouth grass roots effort to share this with the wider world until TED and then the book gave this a significant boost. Presently the film is available to educational organizations through the www.worldpeacegame.org website, and we hope to have the film available to individuals through www.rosaliafilms.com website by the end of the year.
(photo credit: Will May)