Many, many apologies for my long silence! Just after I finished the second WPG here, I was called to the mainland and was there for an extended period of time. I meant to write to you immediately after the second game, but left hurriedly and wasn’t near a computer for all that time.
I can’t tell you how honored I am to be involved with this game. It was transformative for not only the students, but for me as well. Let me tell you, blow by blow, about our experience…
Since I work with homeschool kids, I opened the game up to a wider range of ages than had been done. I know all the kids well, and knew which ones could handle such a powerful situation. The kids ranged in age from 8 to 13. I wouldn’t have done this with anything but a homeschool group. These kids are used to and completely comfortable with different ages. They all work together. As one parent put it…”Homeschoolers look at the situation, see what needs to be done, and help each other.”
On Day 1, I was almost paralyzed with the thought that I might have totally screwed up, and not be ready, or that the kids might not be able to handle the enormous amount of information they were about to receive. I’d spent so much time watching and rewatching your videos, pouring over the materials, building the pieces (that was a major operation….I was up late the night before painting, glueing….), that I thought I might have a very public disaster on my hands.
Day 2 was the start of the most amazing process I’ve ever witnessed. They all came in so excited and ready to get down to business. They broke into groups, and started down a road that was fascinating and gratifying to watch. Their solutions to the crises were absolutely inventive, and some of them I expect to see proposed when they’re adults–they were that good! One of the situations drawn produced surprising and very interesting results. One of the PM’s had chosen her best friend as Secretary of State. When the situation was pulled for that country, it was that the Secretary of State defected with a huge amount of money. This PM is a particularly intelligent, creative, and charming child. Her outrage when it happened was real–this was NOT a game. The Secretary of State was then up for grabs, and one other country vied with her original country to get her to join them, or to return home. When she chose the other country, her home PM was stunned. They then broke into groups for discussion. When they came back, and each of them spoke, the PM stood to give their declarations. She stood there with tears running down her face, and spoke about how they would heal this disaster and carry on. There wasn’t a sound in the room other than her voice. This was a HUGE turning point in the game. From that point onward, it was very serious business.
By Day 3, the kids were begging for more time, and so I went from 1 hour for 8 weeks to 1-1/2 hour for the 8 weeks. The time still flew by and no one was ready to leave at the end of that hour and a half. The only reason we’d leave was that the library, where the game was housed, was closing!
On Day 4, we got some visitors–our funder J. from the mainland, and some of the International Club members from Hawaii. They got there early, and sat through the entire 1-1/2 hours. To say they were amazed is something of an understatement. I let them see copies of the materials the kids had to work with. Every single one of them said they could not–absolutely could not–believe that these young kids were not only keeping the issues straight, but that they were coming up with creative and sometimes remarkable solutions. One of them remarked that the math would do HIM in–how on earth were these kids able to do it? That, of course, gave me the intro I’d been looking for to stand up a bit on a soapbox and tell other adults that kids are far more capable than you might expect. And this game was the finest example of that I’d ever seen.
Days 5 through 8 were a whirlwind of deals and pleas and amazing cooperation. We had a few hotheads who of course wanted to blow things up. Our Arms Dealers were a boy and a girl whom I chose for the chips they sometimes carry around on their shoulders. It took them 4 days before they finally figured out that selling their wares required more finesse than grit….and their business took off.
On Day 5, the head of the United Nations started buying up arms from the arms dealers. There was great speculation (from me included) as to the reason for this. Was he stockpiling it all so no one else could use it? (He was a very pacifist sort of child.) That was the logical explanation. And he bought a LOT. But as it turned out, he bought as much of it as he could so that the UN controlled these weapons, and he would sit and watch carefully the scenes unfolding. Then he would offer serious weaponry to countries that were at a distinct disadvantage to keep them from being attacked. This of course inspired both awe and outrage from any given country, with cries of “Is that legal?” That was pretty amazing to watch. His own mother was stunned.
Our Weather Goddess, chosen by me for her level-headed and pragmatic approach to life, amazed us all with her creative use of power, both helping solve situations and making them much worse.
On Day 8, we went down to the final hour–literally–before World Peace was achieved. My son, who was the one that introduced me via TedTalks to you, was visiting from Australia just so he could be there on the final day of this game that he is responsible for bringing to me. Turns out I chose the best possible saboteur–the one girl absolutely no one would have guessed–soft-spoken, very quiet, even her laugh is hardly audible. She had 2 siblings in the group, and both of those kids were accused. It was the most fun I’ve ever had watching this unfold. When she still hadn’t been exposed by the last day, panic set in, and the World Bank stood up and offered the saboteur an enormous amount of money to reveal themself. No dice. So a special session was called, and I watched these amazing minds sort through every piece of evidence they had, list and reject solutions to the problem at hand, and finally, through some sort of mental magic and logic that young children seem to have….said they were ready to make an accusation. One of them stood up, stared right at the saboteur, and said, “Who else could it be but you?” I still don’t know how they figured it out, but I do know it involved lists, calculators, speculation, frustration, and as I said, magic. When she stood up, was asked if she was in fact the saboteur, and answered in the affirmative, the room exploded in cheers and dances. The Weather Goddess then declared the game had been won. I have never seen anything like it.
My teenage homeschool group, who had helped me create the board and the alternate situations, and many of the materials, played the game the following week. There were fewer of them, and the game went quicker (they are 16-18 years of age), but it was no less amazing. Even though they knew the game and had seen all the situations already, they were creative and stumped and annoyed and frustrated, just like the younger kids.
And so, John, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting in me to pull off this unbelievable game. I have taught for over 32 years, and this is without question the best thing I’ve ever done with kids. I consider you one of the finest minds in education today. This game transforms not only the kids who play it–their thinking, their creativity, their thought processes—but it has the most powerful effect on any adult in the room. I can’t wait to offer the game again, and I hope that I can stay involved for many, many years.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.