World of Peacecraft


Junior Achievement BizTown in Georgia simulates a macro-economy 

What if we thought of education as simulating peace, literacy, and innovation the way video games simulate war? As James Paul Gee argues in his book “What Video Games Have to Teach US About Learning and Literacy,” “the theory of human learning [is] built into video games.”  Video games are addicting, right? They are also challenging. How do video games manage to achieve this mix of challenge and appeal? I think this come in a large part from simulation and role play.

In this post I take a look at some examples that different schools and classrooms have used to simulate real-life peace-time (or peace seeking) challenges.

Industry and finance: In Atlanta, 6th graders can visit Junior Achievement BizTown, which is a marketplace in which actual franchises set up a mock store in a mall-like interactive marketplace. Every student is given a job assignment at one of these businesses. Then they go to the Junior Achievement Finance Park and make a personal budget based on the scenario they have been given.

STEM: The Challenger Learning Center has two rooms – one room that simulates a space station, and the other that simulates a base on earth. Astronauts in space collect data that is given to the base for students to analyze. They have to work with “quarantined” agents using a glovebox, catch things like extreme pH in the water, assemble a robot, and check astronaut’s blood pressure. While this requires a visit to a well-established center, started as a living memorial of the Challenger space shuttle, there are science resources for individual classrooms as well. For example, the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College provides scenarios for role play and a mock environmental summit.  The advantage of active learning in science is that there is no reason in many cases that it has to be a “simulation” at all. Students don’t need to “simulate doing science” they can do science. Lab work is very hands on.  And this can also be taken in new directions focused on innovation, such as in International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition in which college and high school students build a plasmid (bacteria DNA insert) that give bacteria specific traits.  There are also journals where students (middle and high school) can publish scientific research.

Governance: Simulated court cases are a common educational tool. Moot court cases simulate a court of appeals and mock trials simulate a court of appeals. Model parliament simulates the Westminster parliamentary system. There are also some less formal resources available for setting up a mock congress in a classroom.  On a larger competitive level in the National Model United Nations, college students are assigned to act as diplomats for different countries. They prepare for about 6-8 months to be able to represent the interests of that country (whether or not they agree with those interests).

History: As Mark C. Carnes described for the Chronicle, he developed a simulation of events in history in which students debate the issues of the day and can decide on an alternative history if desired. As the student Maharaha Hari Singh said, “One thing this class has taught me is that it’s very hard to learn history in retrospect.” One thing this class has taught me is that it’s very hard to learn history in retrospect” (Reacting to the Pest: The student Perspective (2012)).

Right now a MIT dean Christine Ortiz is leaving her position at MIT to create a new university that will be centered on project-based learning. The only lectures will be online and the classrooms will be large centralized laboratories.  Maybe this is one step toward thinking of education as simulating a World of Peacecraft?

5 thoughts on “World of Peacecraft”

  1. Wow, this post was pretty resourceful. I wish I had an experience similar to visiting the Challenger Learning Center while I was growing up. I can see so much benefit in learning this way i.e. through simulation and role-playing.

    Back when I was in school involving students in labs/science fairs/robotics workshops etc. were seen as effective learning strategies (for the same reasons you mentioned), in addition, class trips to the planetariums/monuments/museums/science centers etc. were helpful in inspiring and motivating students to learn.

    Implementing sound learning strategies are equally as important as motivating and inspiring students. Schooling years would be so much more fun if all courses could lend themselves to a similar format.

  2. That is really cool. I agree with Siddharth and wish I could have had something like this too.

    How could we use role-playing in the classroom without it becoming trite or over-played?

  3. Thanks for providing all of these awesome examples of role-playing in the classroom! Role-playing and simulation really do seem to get people engaged and feel connected to what they are learning. And maybe, since it feels like play and since we are sort of acting like someone else, it helps us get over fear of failure or of giving the wrong answer too? I was a really quiet kid and teenager, but I remember being really active during a mock trial in the 8th grade and some other similar activity in AP Government, as well. I think I was more willing to be brave as the lawyer defending human rights than I was as myself!

  4. I realy like the examples you share! I like the “Reacting to the Past” project that Mark C. Carnes mentioned and I’m wondering how to use role playing games for a science class. Your sharing is helpful.

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