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Game teaches New Zealand children peaceful resolution

 


 

April 15, 2004

A UMNS Feature By Amy Green*

Learning how to resolve conflict peacefully is a game to children in New Zealand.

Disturbed by growing violence throughout the world - from schoolyards to Iraq - a group of New Zealanders three years ago began developing a board game teaching the merits of peaceful problem solving. With support from religious groups such as the Methodist Church of New Zealand, the game now is available in primary schools across the country.

Called "The Incredible Journey," the game is meant to address bullying and domestic violence by encouraging teamwork and compassion in children, says Robyn Cave, coordinator for the Decade to Overcome Violence, a World Council of Churches initiative. Cave helped in the game's production.

"Everyone is aware of increasing signs of violence that's not only in our homes but in schools and workplaces. It's global," she says. "This board game has been like a local response, saying, 'How can we help children in this country learn to live alongside each other in ways that are creative and cooperative?'"

The game was developed by an ecumenical group of New Zealanders. The Conference of Churches in Aotearoa, New Zealand, the Methodist Church of New Zealand and others helped fund the game's production and distribution to congregations across the country. At $25 each in New Zealand currency, congregations donated the games to schools.

The concept is similar to that of Monopoly. On a board showing a map of New Zealand, players use dice to move from one space to the next, drawing cards along the way. The cards give players examples of problems they might encounter at home or school. For example, one card sends players backward a few spaces for stealing friends' lunches. Another sends them forward for talking to a friend about an annoying trait without getting mad.

"The Incredible Journey" is meant to be played with an adult nearby to give guidance as children discuss these problems. The board includes a space that requires all players to meet, no matter where they are in the game, and solve a problem together. For example, one card asks how a child who is ridiculed for being very tall could turn that trait into something positive.

"In the course of playing the game, they will be forced to lose their advantage and come together. So that's a way of developing cooperation," Cave says. "It's encouraging them to use nonviolent behavior in everyday situations."

"The Incredible Journey" is used at some 2,000 schools, and organizers hope to raise enough money to eventually make the game available commercially. The designers plan to distribute the game internationally, including in the United States, with the aim of educating people about New Zealand.

Adelma Matthews, a teacher who uses the game in her classroom, believes it has had a positive effect on her students.

"They'll have an idea of how to discuss things with someone they may not necessarily get along with, and that's all about life," she says. "It really helps them get their own ideas but listen to other ideas as well and be able to accept the fact that their ideas could differ from someone else's, and there's a lot of different strategies to dealing with a problem."

*Green is a freelance journalist based in Nashville, Tenn. Television producer Carey Moots contributed information for this report. News media can contact at Tim Tanton (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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