MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and we're calling today's show Global D.C. Why Global D.C.? Well, it turns out more than one in eight D.C. residents come from outside the United States. In the District's public schools you can find students hailing from 133 different countries and speaking more than 100 different languages. Then, of course, we have the suburbs where you can also find quite the international mix. So in honor of this incredible diversity we'll devote the next hour to traveling the globe without leaving the region.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We'll meet members of the local Salvadoran community.
MS. CATALINA SOL
It was a place where people could identify where they came and others would know what that meant, without having to explain a lot.
And we'll talk with a vet who studies global pandemics.
DR. SUZAN MURRAY
The surveillance has really steeped up a lot and we've managed to identify over 200 new viruses.
Plus, we'll explore the rapidly-changing neighborhood of Chinatown.
MR. RAYMOND WONG
But of course you didn't see the office buildings, the convention center. You didn't see any of the tourists here. It was just neighborhood people.
But before we get to all that, I want you to think back, back to your childhood. A very specific part of your childhood, actually, fourth grade. Now, think about it, what were you doing back in fourth grade in school, I mean. Were you practicing fractions? Were you learning photosynthesis? Maybe you were studying the British colonization of the New World?
Well, let's fast-forward to now, where a modern-day fourth grader named Sarah Schmidt has been up to something a little bit different.
MISS SARAH SCHMIDT
We made the treaty last week about buying the land. And once we bought the land we bought 20,000 troops, with our solar-power plants, our two submarines and our oxygen-production plant. So now we're scattering them and making sure that areas are covered for military strike.
Sarah Schmidt, you see, isn't just a fourth grader at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School in Charlottesville, Va. Sarah Schmidt is an officer in the United Nations.
I'm the CFO, helping out with all the military stuff that's going on.
And this morning, there's a ton of military stuff going on. Because we're several weeks in to the World Peace Game, a geo-political simulation dreamed up in 1978, by Sarah's teacher, John Hunter. And he's written all about his adventures with the game in a brand new book, "World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements."
Can you show me what's going on here?
MR. JOHN HUNTER
All right. It's a 4' by 4' by 4' Plexiglas structure. There's an undersea level down here. And a ground and sea level with factories and cities and troops and ICBMs and religious shrines and all the things we have on earth. We've got an aircraft level, with territorial air space and air forces, clouds and weather that move around randomly. And then we have an outer-space layer with asteroid mining, satellites, and even a black hole right there. The kids have to solve that, too.
As Hunter says, the kids have to solve that, too, because it's one of the 50 global crises he presents to his students at the start of the World Peace Game. And these 50 crises run the gamut, I mean, we're talking famines…
Ethnic and religious and minority rights disputes…
…a hazardous waste spill from a nuclear power plant. And there's also a chemical power plant involved right near farmland.
Not to mention, breakaway Republics...
And an oil spill…
Things like that. Intractable stuff.
And the way Hunter's designed it, all these crises the students must solve are interconnected.
There's no conventional solution. They have to create and invent a solution. I, myself, who invented it, can't figure it out. I can't solve it.
The students play in four teams, each representing an imaginary country.
And the names change with each group of students that play the game. They name their own countries.
They also take on leadership roles in their countries.
Prime minister, secretary of state, a minister of defense and CFO, Chief Financial Officer.
Students who aren't in the four countries, like our UN CFO Sarah Schmidt, take on other roles.
We have a United Nation's body, arms dealers and a World Bank body, as well.
Hunter also assigns two more positions, the saboteur and the weather god or goddess.
And they're there really to offset the children's good intentions.
The saboteur does that through, well, you guessed it, sabotage.
Through ambiguity or misdirection, misinformation and a small budget with mercenaries and a couple of ICBMs, they're trying to destabilize the entire game. Everybody knows that person's in the room. Nobody knows who it is. So it causes every student to have to think more critically and deeply about everything that's said in the room, all the time.
As for the weather god or goddess, this time around, that role is being played by Kaitlyn Galloway. And she has two spin boards. She uses one to control the stock market.
MISS KAITLYN GALLOWAY
You can spin for no change in your stocks. You can spin for stocks skyrocket, stocks plummet.
And she uses the other to control the weather.
There can be fair weather, tornado on the Capital, sub-zero cold snaps, sand storm, blizzard, cloud cover 100 percent and the tsunami in the west coast, hurricanes, too.
With so much going on, Kaitlyn admits that, initially, the World Peace Game was pretty scary.
It was pretty nerve-wracking at first. There's a lot of problems in the world that we should solve.
But she eventually realized how much you can achieve when you cooperate with your fellow players. And Sarah Schmidt agrees.
Teamwork has a big role in this game because if you don't get along it could be a long way down the pain train.
Because as John Hunter points out, to win the World Peace Game students must make two things happen. One…
They solve all 50 crises.
Every country's asset value must have increased past its starting point.
And you simply can't do either without collaborating, Hunter says. H remembers this one game, a few years back, where it was the final day of play and the students had worked out all the crises, every single one. But the asset value of the poorest country was down, and we're talking way down.
And up until, I think the last three or four seconds on the clock we were struggling with a solution.
That's when the prime minister of the wealthiest country had this eureka moment and he asked all the other countries, plus the U.N., to pool their funds and donate them to the struggling country. And just like that, the game was won.
The collaboration that comes about, I don't have to teach it, I don't have to preach it. If you can allow the learning to happen organically and it comes from within them and within their own experience, it's so much richer and deeper and it lasts so much longer than if it's imposed from outside.
John Hunter has been playing the World Peace Game for more than three decades, at his school, in summer camps, he's even played with students in Norway. And get this, in all that time, he's never seen students lose. Not once.
And sometimes it's a very dire situation where it doesn't seem possible, but they've always managed to win the game.
Part of it, he says, is how his students collaborate. But another part is how he behaves. He doesn't butt in to the game or tell his students what to do, what not to do. Instead, he treats these CFOs and prime ministers and secretaries of state as peers. Equals.
So together, we become co-teachers. And they, in this safe place, can say, well, we'll just try. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else. If it doesn't work we'll trying something else. We'll get better and better trying and eventually they win.
And they save the world.
They save the world every time. And they're going to grow up and hopefully be able to do that for real.
You can find more information on World Peace and other fourth-grade achievements and see photos of that 4' by 4' by 4' Plexiglass structure on our website, metroconnection.org.
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