Friends, Robert Coleman Elementary School Students Collaborate to Solve World’s Problems

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On Thursday, Jan. 21, just as they had done twice weekly since last October, 30 fourth and fifth graders from Friends School and Robert W. Coleman Public Elementary School in the city’s Mondawmin community gathered together to play the World Peace Game and, in the waning hours of an 11-week deadline, the students did it: They achieved world peace. This video captures the moment. (One of the lead negotiators was home with a cold that day but was able to participate in a critical decision by phone.)

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Founded more than 30 years ago by veteran educator John Hunter, the game seeks to place “all the problems of the world,” including economic, social, and environmental crises and the imminent threat of war, on a 4 ft. x 5 ft. triple-decker Plexiglas board and “let the children solve them.” Collaboration and communication are crucial as “nation teams” navigate hands-on political simulations with the goals of extricating each country from dangerous circumstances with the least amount of military intervention and achieving global prosperity.

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Friends fourth-grade teacher Jillien Lakatta and her Robert Coleman Elementary colleague Tayamisha Thomas facilitated the game. “The crises are complex and multi-layered, almost a mathematical matrix,” says Lakatta. “Our role was to guide the students but never to give answers.”

She and Thomas were hopeful that the children would solve the 23 global crises – ranging from a rebel insurgency over an oil refinery to a multi-national conflict surrounding an underground aquifer – by the January 28 deadline but admits it was a close call. “No school has ever failed. We’ve tried to impress upon the children that we do not want to be the first.”

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The two teachers attended a World Peace Game master class last June in Charlottesville, Va. “We were with educators from all over the world who have been playing the World Peace Game,” says Lakatta. “One group from Mali shared how they have used the game to have their students solve real-world problems that exist in their country. This game has given them hope and has made a difference in the lives of their students. It is difficult to put the experience into words, but it was one of the best weeks of my life.”

Along with Lakatta and Thomas, brothers Atman and Ali Smith ‘94, founders of the nonprofit Holistic Life Foundation (HLF), have been instrumental in bringing the Friends and Robert Coleman Schools together, as the latter’s students are enrolled in HLF’s after-school programs.

Friends is the first Quaker school to play the game. A TED talk given by Mr. Hunter has received more than 1.2 million views since its posting in 2011. Additionally, a documentary, “World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements,” offers a moving inside-look at the game and its young players. To view a 3-minute trailer, click here.

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Friends School of Baltimore is an independent, coeducational Quaker school located on a 35-acre wooded campus in northern Baltimore City. The School develops in children age four through grade 12 an enduring passion for learning – in the classroom, on the playing fields, on-stage and studio, and out in the community –and instills in them the confidence to challenge, inquire and take initiative.

Edited from Press Release

Edited from Press Release

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