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Letting Fourth Graders Solve the World's Problems

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John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4'x5' plywood board and lets his 4th-graders solve them. In this TED Talk, Hunter, who's been named one of Time Magazine's education activists for 2012, explains how his World Peace Game engages schoolkids, and why the complex lessons it teaches -- spontaneous, and always surprising -- go further than classroom lectures can.

Students must deconstruct a 13-page crisis document with interlocking problems like ethnic and minority tensions, chemical and nuclear spills, oil spills, environmental disasters, water rights disputes, breakaway republics, famine, endangered species and global warming.

In the process of solving these problems in class, Hunter says he hands over the reigns to students.

"It's a serious question: who is really in charge? I've learned to cede control of the classroom over to the students over time. There's a trust and an understanding and a dedication to an ideal that I simply don't have to do what I thought I had to do as a beginning teacher: control every conversation and response in the classroom. It's impossible. Their collective wisdom is much greater than mine, and I admit it to them openly," he says.


A documentary, World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements, offers a look into how the game is played in class, and how it influences the dynamic of teachers and students.