Day 2 at the Schools of the Future Conference: Learning through Real-World Simulation

Over the past two days at the 2012 Schools of the Future conference, I had the opportunity to meet a variety of amazing people whose ideas are already making impressions on learners today and are bound to create new opportunities for learners of the future.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing John Hunter’s keynote speech. John is a public school teacher who took his background in religious and philosophical studies and applied it to the 4th-grade classroom. In his quest to engage 4th-grade students in a lesson to become change makers and critical thinkers, he created a plexiglass real-world simulation game that exercises students’ critical and creative thinking skills, compassion, and strategic thinking. The World Peace Game is a complex game that stands at 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet, has hundreds of pieces, a 13-page crisis document, a classroom of 4th graders versed on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and much more.

The quote he shares in his bio illustrates his game’s philosophy: “Accepting the reality of violence, I seek to incorporate ways to explore harmony in various situations. This exploration would take form in the framework of a game – something that students would enjoy. Within the game data space, they would be challenged, while enhancing collaborative and communication skills.”

With his game, students are in control of the lesson and the world’s outcomes.

 After all, these students are the ones who we will hand the world to; ripe with environmental problems, warfare, ethnic tensions, and economic disparity. Though John has been using a version of this game in his classroom since the late ’70s, his philosophy that learning should be in the control of the student and the teacher should act as facilitator is the future of learning. Flipped classrooms are asking students to be in control of their learning at home and to bring questions to class; computer software can customize learning for an entire classroom of individual students with different needs while the teacher stands by; individuals are in control of advancing their learning around the world with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses); and the list goes on.

It was a great experience to be among leaders who were driven by a similar mission as LifeBound. My book Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers also addresses the need for students to solve the world’s biggest problems through real-world experiences, exploration, and learning about innovative trailblazers before them. Leadership for Teenagers: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century asks students to create a vision, become an influencer, and take action to create change in their life, school, community, and one day, the world.

John’s book World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements is due out in 2013. You can also find out more about watching the documentary of the same title via his website,

Watch John’s TED Talk, Teaching with the World Peace Game, which shares the journey he took to create the World Peace Game and clips of his students speaking passionately about their roles in this political simulation.

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