Let there be Pax on Earth, the Game Loft/I Know ME explores 19th century international history
Look at the picture to the left and what do you see? You might see four goofy kids talking with an even goofier older woman (me). What do I see? I see four diplomats representing Japan, Russia, Italy, and France in the 1890’s discussing the state of the world with a member of the press corps. You see, if just takes a little imagination. In April imagination met with factual learning in the Game Loft’s annual Pax Britannica event. Eight teams of youth and adults spent a full April vacation day exploring the events that led to the First World War. What is even more surprising is that these young people are not the ones who are normally enamored of education, in fact many of them are struggling, but they gladly spent a day talking about colonization, trade routes, negotiated settlements, treaties, alliances, and coaling rights in the far distant past.
The object of the game is to re-create the period between 1888 and 1916 and to grab as much territory as possible without upsetting the balance of power and causing the Great War. Although the details differ slightly from actual events, the spirit of colonial expansion is the same. Most kids would not say that those topics inspired them to spend a spring day indoors. In Pax Britannica nations must balance the pressures from their own countries for greater revenue and power with the need to keep the lid on what is a boiling pot of international controversies. The countries that are timid will lose but causing the Great War also means defeat.
The kids poured over maps, created strategies, negotiated, delegated, gave interviews, and interpreted a set of rules that are worthy of an international treaty. What caused this dedication? We didn’t let them know that this was “educational.”
Linford Young, Pax Britannica veteran and high school senior galvanized the room with his eloquent address as the president of the United States. He was able to use his skills and knowledge to get to victory in the game.
Thank you to our AmeriCorps members who led the event and mentored the less experienced teams.
Many of the players in Pax Britannica 2022 were new to the game but their grasp of complex issues was heartening. In particular, the coalition of several powers: Russia, France, Italy, Japan, and Austria-Hungary created a proto-League of Nations. In all the many years of playing Pax Britannica I have never seen a time before this where war was averted and nation depended on nation for peace and goodwill. I was truly moved by the spirit of compromise they showed.
Imparting knowledge and wisdom is the work of schools, but it is a pleasure when afterschool can add a unique perspective to the education process.