Class 7 played the World Peace Game, developed by John Hunter, for a week from 8 to 12 o’clock in the morning. The classroom had been cleared of its tables and the multi-level board of the game was set up in the middle. The game facilitator was Christiane Leiste who is responsible for helping refugee children at our school and who has attended various master classes with John Hunter and obtained the certificate which allows her to facilitate the game.
The whole of the first day was devoted to introducing the game which is “won” when, firstly, at the end of the week the budget of all the represented nations has not fallen below the amount with which they started out and, secondly, all the crises occurring in the course of the game have been resolved. But these crises can only be resolved if all the teams work well together and if there is good cooperation between the players.
On the one hand, the game is designed to reflect “real life”: there are wars, hostilities, climate disasters, fleeing people, saboteurs, secret and malicious machinations. There are institutions like the World Bank, the International Court of Justice, the UN, but also an alliance of arms dealers. In this context there were also tanks and soldiers, military fighter aircraft and even killer satellites in space. On the other hand, cooperative and problem-solving work is demanded precisely under those conditions.
In the course of the second day, the groups were organised. Four different nations selected their president as well as foreign and finance ministers. The institutions named above were given their official tasks. Finally, a press team also quickly established itself which reported on the current state of the game, crises which had been managed or nasty attacks by the saboteur or the president of the Secret Empire.
Mostly it was four children who worked together in a team. The four countries were called FPL (Fair Peace Land), Green Island, Yellowland and Calandien. A weather goddess was responsible for unpredictable events and kept turning the wheel of fortune. The course of the game was driven forward by ever new threatening scenarios (for example, the saboteur threatened to fire nuclear missiles at an island) which were contained in a “Secret Dossier”. Phases alternated in which the nations and organisations negotiated with one another, sometimes with great passion, or in which business worth billions was concluded, or there were official declarations with the very formal appearance of the heads of government and delegations.
There was a clever saboteur, that is a pupil who had secretly been given this task and performed it by means of secret communication with the game facilitator. Because the class was unable to identify him despite many suspicions and some accusations, the game was not won until close to the end.
The project aims to introduce the children through play into the way of thinking of world politics and to develop and practice forms of cooperation leading to peace. Some of the comments on the sheets on which the children afterwards reflected about the game were: “At the beginning I had the feeling we would descend into chaos. But from one day to the next day things got better. Until it then all worked out at the end.” Or: “We learnt to think better about things before making important decisions.” – “The negotiating was the key point” – “I learnt not to make any rash decisions and not to be too inflexible in decisions.” – “A good negotiating partner can listen to the opinions of others and include them.” – “I found it very good that we played the parts of real governments.” – “It just developed so well. I simply find it good for the future.”
And the children did indeed work their way into the demanding tasks with great commitment in the course of the week. These tasks represented an enormous challenge with the aim of evoking independence, responsibility and cooperative spirit. A wealth of rituals, for example official declarations were always introduced with the same form of words, additionally enabled the children to enter into “real” government roles.
Some children, who were kept very busy in “positions of responsibility”, truly flourished and displayed strategic thinking or humanitarian commitment in a way which cannot be experienced in this way in day-to-day school life. There was no kind of instruction. The children simply had to draw on their own resources and face up to challenging situations. For many a child that probably also produced the exhilaration they experienced during this week.
About the author: Ulrich Kaiser is a class teacher at the Hamburg Bergstedt Rudolf Steiner School.