Since 1978, educator John Hunter has been asking fourth graders to solve humanity's most complicated problems. So far, no big solution has emerged but the students learn a lot, he said in a Tuesday interview on WNYC.
"This game is designed to fail massively," Hunter said. "Often they go to war against my wishes. But they go through it and come out the other side with a deeper understanding than they could have had I stopped them."
He has a book out called World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements. You can hear the conversation on The Brian Lehrer Show:
"All 50 interlocking global problems has to be solved reasonably," Hunter said. "Everybody has to win if the game is to be won."
He said the keys to a successful game are to have open-minded participants who know and trust each other; it can be played with older students or adults too.
Over the past 35 years, Hunter said the tenor of the conversation has evolved, in a way that leaves him optimistic.
"The children started out back then, at the tail end of the Cold War, with much more militaristic intent. Over time they've become much more thoughtful, less inclined to war, which is surprising to me in general, much more thoughtful before engaging in those kinds of activities, particularly after 9/11."
Teachers and parents, any games you like to play with children that tackle real-life problems? Share your ideas and experiences here.