"Q. Is there a best way to solve problems in the world between opposing viewpoints? Explain."
"A. Yes. Negotiation. Talk about your problems. Be okay with disagreeing on some things. Let go of some things. This is all easier and better than killing each other."
This 5th grader's response to the question exemplifies the kind of reflective thinking that occurs throughout the World Peace Game. Throughout the week of March 4th, for three hours each day, 5th graders gathered in my classroom to face the daunting task of solving over 50 world crises. They also had to track and balance budgets, fend off possible military attacks, plan counter-attacks, determine the validity of threats from other nations, collaborate, compromise, and do all of this with no help from any adult, myself included.
So, what is my role if I'm not helping the students? My role is to monitor their decision-making process and be prepared for whatever consequences result. My role is to listen actively and respectfully, and communicate to each child that his or her ideas are valid and worthy of being heard. My role is to encourage the shy student to come out of her shell, take control of a chaotic situation, and confidently command the attention of her colleagues. My role is to comfort and encourage the humbled and hurting student who tried a solution that failed big time. My favorite role of all is to learn from my own students. I learn from their perseverance through frustration, their gentleness with each other after the conflict, their willingness to take significant risks for the protection of the refugee, persecuted religious group, the economically failing nation. I learn that, although they are children, they already have the capacity to achieve great things. I learn that seeds planted in a child who is invested, engaged, respectful, and respected will reap a rich harvest when they are adults.
My 5th graders taught me that our future is in wonderfully capable hands.