Gibson Haines, a middle school student from Waikoloa, is the secretary of state of “Woodby,” the second-richest country in the fictional world of the World Peace Game, an ingenious learning experience happening now in North Kohala.
“We mine asteroids,” said Haines, student of home-school teacher Susan Lehner, facilitator of the game. “They have mining in space, underground and underwater, and they are the only place to mine jewels.”
Last Friday, participants, parents and the community at large was invited to the North Kohala Public Library to watch a film by Chris Farina, “World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.” Invented by John Hunter, a Richmond, Virginia, school teacher in 1978, the game has since been played around the U.S. and the world. This is the first time the World Peace Game has been assembled and played in Hawaii, and the first time it’s been played by home-schoolers.
“The game’s being played by home-school kids first because I work with and know these kids well,” said Lehner. “The game’s success is tied to the relationships you have with your students. Once it is opened to the public and private schools, their teachers will be the true administrators of the game.”
The game board—a wild-looking, multi-level tower of plexiglass panels that represent underwater, underground, land, air and space—was constructed by 10 of Lehner’s high school home-schoolers, under her direction. Game pieces for troops, ships, cultural and natural resources, airplanes, satellites and more will be moved around their levels during the World Peace Game.
Lehner was inspired to bring the game to the Hawaii Island about a year and a half ago, when her son, who was living in Australia, sent her an email with link to the film trailer, saying “Mom, you got to see this.”
“He knows I love kids, board games and miniatures,” said Lehner. “As soon as I watched the TED Talk, I wrote to John Hunter and he replied within 10 minutes. He helped put the game together, and answered all my questions.”
The young Haines, with interests in paleontology, architecture and theoretical physics, looks forward to playing the multi-dimensional game with 25 other students over the next eight weeks. As one member of the cabinet, his responsibilities overlap with others, and all of their roles require constant communication, collaboration, and intense negotiations, as the World Peace Game challenges students to think and cooperate as nations on many levels: political, economic, military, environmental and social.
Tasmin Bulau of Waimea is Woodby’s minister of defense and has begun to read through the detailed reports and information contained in dossiers, prepared for each nation in advance. When the game starts, all players will receive a list of “crises,” such as weather or environmental emergencies, military activity, economic troubles, and many others. These interlocking crises must all be solved to win the game and achieve world peace.
To add an unpredictable wrinkle, random factors come into play. A “weather goddess” can call down floods and storms or random disasters in the stock market; one secret “saboteur” becomes responsible for misinformation and confusion.
One thing Bulau is worried about is who’s going to be the saboteur. Although she doesn’t have any political aspirations herself at this time, preferring vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) and working with a mentor on engineering projects, she is excited about playing the game.
Shanti Scarpetta-Lee of Kapaau is the weather goddess.
“From what I understand, I think I spin some sort of wheel, and it comes up with something, like a tornado,” she said. “Then I get to decide where it hits.”
Although the object of the game is, of course, world peace (accomplished by each of the four nations having improved their status over the eight weeks of the game), sometimes it’s necessary to engage in a small war to prevent a bigger one. When that happens, the “United Nations” gets involved; a coin toss determines victor and loser; the “World Bank” deducts costs from national accounts; and the Prime Minister writes a letter to the parents of those lost in battle
Scarpetta-Lee’s sister, Kaialuna, is prime minister of “Neyan,” one of the less-wealthy countries. She has selected her cabinet and is formulating a strategy in advance.
“I thought about making a peace treaty with everyone,” Kaialuna Scarpetta-Lee said.
Lehner said that Kohala’s diverse ethnicity, economic viability, and world experience was an inspiring mix for the game.
“For these students, working together to solve such problems in a non-threatening situation such as this very compelling game, will serve them well in handling situations in their daily lives,” she said. “Helping students learn to solve complex problems using cooperation and collaboration is our goal. Watching these kids grow up and become champions of world peace would be an added bonus.”
Lehner said the team would not have been able to experience the World Peace Game team without their sponsors, the Bill Healy Foundation, the Stevens World Peace Foundation, Kohala Ranch Corporation, the Dorrance Family Foundation, and the North Kohala Community Resource Center for their assistance. The World Peace Game is a project of the North Kohala Community Learning Center.
For more information about the World Peace Game, visit www.worldpeacegame.org