It was the last day of the World Peace Game, and the secretary-general of the United Nations, 14-year-old Alexander Marquina, needed to move a group of seafaring refugees to safety.
The boats were traveling too slowly. Alexander, a student at Linus Pauling Middle School, was running out of time. Then he had the idea of purchasing pontoon boats to more quickly settle the refugees.
“I learned to really think outside the box,” Marquina said.
The eighth-grader joined 30 of his Linus Pauling classmates in playing the nine-day interactive game.
The World Peace Game is a political simulation in which the leaders of four countries work together to solve global crises like climate change, oil spills, rebel insurgencies and more. Some of the problems are realistic, while others are more fantastical in nature, such as brokering a treaty to provide the healing waters of life to a country in need.
Students move pieces, such as army men, airplanes and clouds, on a large four-level glass playing board. The levels represent the ocean floor, ground level, air space and outer space.
The countries are fictional but share qualities with real-life nations, said the game’s facilitator, retired Linus Pauling teacher Carla Olson. The countries are a poor icebound nation, a wealthy country with nuclear weapons, an oil-rich desert nation and a moderately wealthy, ecologically minded country.
Students win the game when they overcome 55 interwoven crises and if the countries have more money than they started with.
“They have to think critically and they have to think creatively to solve this, and I hope that helps them down the road,” Olson said.
The countries’ leaders worked with the World Bank, United Nations and a group of arms dealers to make deals and solve problems, such as sending troopers to capture mercenaries who were attacking a nation’s hydrogen fuel cells. The weather goddesses are the ultimate controllers, announcing weather patterns, such as a destructive blizzard in one country, and economic factors, such as the stock market skyrocketing.
Vivienne McFarland-Price, who served as the prime minister of the country Chilandia, said she learned the definitions of words she didn’t know before, like tariff and mercenary. The 13-year-old enjoyed the game because it showed how well her classmates could work together, she said.
“You basically had to figure out how to do it without fighting,” McFarland-Price said. “I mean, there was some fighting, but for the most part it was done with peace treaties and trade agreements.”
Olson said the game is engaging because all the students in the classroom have assigned roles, and it takes each of them to solve the complex problems. This requires the students to consider other people’s perspectives. She said she keeps the game moving and answers questions, but the kids must make all the decisions, giving them quite a bit of autonomy.
Many of the scenarios the students must work through provide them understanding of real-life issues, such as oil spills that endanger species, Olson said.
The World Peace Game was created 40 years ago by John Hunter, a high school teacher in Virginia. In 2014, Hunter visited Corvallis for a Martin Luther King Jr. presentation. After learning about the world peace game, Corvallis High Schools senior Ele Adams raised money to build a four-level board and was trained on how to facilitate the game. In 2015, Olson was trained in the game and also built her own board.
Olson said the game facilitates higher-level thinking and teamwork, a kind of learning she’d like to see more of in schools. She said she hopes some of the young people who play this game and learn the art of negotiation and the complexities of issues will go on to be global ambassadors.
“Then we have a chance. We have a future,” she said.