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Peace Game Puts 'Weight Of The World' On Students
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Peace Game Puts 'Weight Of The World' On Students


Now, for another conversation from StoryCorps' National Teachers Initiative.


CORNISH: This school year, we'll be sharing stories from and about teachers. John Hunter has been teaching for more than three decades. He wanted to get his students to think about major world issues, so he invented the World Peace Game. Here's how it works: students are divided into countries, then Hunter gives them a series of global crises - natural disasters, political conflicts - that the students have to solve. Hunter's classes are remarkably successful at resolving the issues peacefully, a fact made all the more remarkable because his students are in 4th grade. Hunter recently sat down for StoryCorps with two former World Peace Game players. The first was 11-year-old Julianne Swope.

JULIANNE SWOPE: Sometimes, World Peace Game feels like, you know, the weight of the world on your shoulders. This is exploding over here; this is firing over there; this is spilling oil. And I just look at the board and I say to myself, oh my gosh, I need to fix this. And you, Mr. Hunter, you are always saying there's only one thing I'll say when you make these decisions: know the consequences. And I think that's actually pretty fair. And that should apply in real life too. What do you hope we learn from the World Peace Game?

JOHN HUNTER: I think how to make people not suffer so much. I think I now hope the game also helps people be more compassionate and kinder.

SWOPE: And that's what I've learned, that no matter where you're from, your background, you can still connect with someone else that you've never even met before.


IRENE NEWMAN: I'm Irene Newman. I played the World Peace Game 10 years ago and now I'm studying peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Third grade I thought I was going to be president of the United States.

HUNTER: I remember you too. I remember the pigtails, the Brownie uniform, the glasses. You were an intellectual, a third grade intellectual.

NEWMAN: I had decided that we were going to win the Peace Game and the way that was going to work was I was going to take over everything. I started on that path and quickly ran into a lot of problems. I really began to understand as we're playing the game, we found peace more through cooperation with one another. And I actually found the other day on my 13th birthday, you sent me these two pages of advice. But I just wanted to give it to you and see if there are any particular points of advice that you had anything to say about.

HUNTER: Oh, you caught me, Irene. Because I always claimed to never give advice. Number 22: most problems are actually pretty simple to solve. We superimpose so much on them that they become so complex. What? You like that one? What does that...

NEWMAN: I do like that one.

HUNTER: What does that mean for you?

NEWMAN: Well, actually, as we've been talking about the World Peace Game, it does make you think that if a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders can look at problems and find the solution that sometimes the world problems are more simple than we think.

HUNTER: I mean, let's let 4th graders and 3rd graders handle things.

NEWMAN: Our world could be in a different situation than it is now.

HUNTER: Sometimes I wonder. I'm almost afraid adults are playing the real World Peace Game and we're not doing so well at it. But 3rd graders and 4th graders routinely fix everything and make everything work OK. If just one of them gets through 10 years, 15 years later, they may save us all. So, I'm kind of hoping that you may be in a position to do that someday.

NEWMAN: We'll see.

HUNTER: We will. I'll be watching too.


CORNISH: That's John Hunter, inventor of the World Peace Game, with former students Irene Newman and Julianne Swope at StoryCorps.


CORNISH: Hunter is currently playing the game with 4th graders at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Learn more about the game and StoryCorps' National Teacher's Initiative at


CORNISH: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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