- The Aspen Difference
Chuck Fischer first heard of the World Peace Game when listening to TED Radio. He knew it was perfect for Aspen Academy since it was a game where kids used their cooperation and leadership skills to successfully solve all the world's problems and create peace. Lofty goals but doable according to Fischer.
Over the past summer, the PCO paid for Fischer and Karen Skadow to attend the World Peace Game training here in Denver. The two then spent the months that followed planning this new Tuesday/Thursday Essentials class.
One of their biggest challenges was preparing the game pieces. Pieces included food processing plants, missiles, fish, nuclear weapons, UN troops, windmills, groups of refugees, solar plants, fusion plants, an aquifer, a volcano, a coral reef, space stations and airplanes. "It was a ridiculously fun creative process," grinned Fischer. He even used Aspen Academy's 3D printers to make small trucks and airplanes for the game board.
The PCO also paid to build the game board from scratch. It's an enormous structure – four 4 x 4 tiers stacked one on top of the other with enough space in between for game play and movement. (If you get a chance, stop by the lunchroom to see it. It's quite a marvel.)
On the first day of class, students walked into a board fully set up in utter chaos with 23 specific problems such as an oil spill, a volcanic eruption, a distress call from space, global warming and a nuclear power plant spill. The students became four major countries, two weather gods, arms dealers or the United Nations. All the countries began with resources and money.
To win the game, a country must solve all 23 crises and have more money than when they started.
Mid-October, students were in what Fischer calls stage 2, despair. One student recently commented, "Is this even possible?" Fischer noted that the kids have yet to think win-win and cooperate with each other. But once the kids get a taste of successful problem solving, he explained, things will shift and they'll find a flow.
"The problems are interrelated and have consequences in multiple directions," shared Fischer. "For example, here's a coral reef with ancient gold," he pointed out. "You can get the gold, but it will kill an endangered species." He added that the kids all have a crisis document with information in it to help them start to solve the problems. Like Socratic seminar, he and Skadow stay in the roles of facilitators, out of decision-making.
Each time they meet, students discuss their plans, negotiate with others and move on the game board. In one class period, a country bought missiles from the arms dealers and fired them at the Secret Empire. Direct vs. indirect hits were determined by coin flips. The direct hits got cheers from other students. (Which was ironic considering the purpose of the game.)
Not to worry. This not-so-peaceful behavior was simply part of the process. As the World Peace Game Foundation website states, "Beliefs and values will evolve or completely unravel as they begin to experience the positive impact and windows of opportunity that emerge through effective collaboration and refined communication."
Imagine just how much the World Peace Game will contribute to a child's understanding of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as well as social justice, geography and politics.
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