Social studies teachers Karl Atkins and Scott Deckelmann take on a very serious subject by giving their students a very amusing challenge: Win a computer game. In fact, students have to win PeaceMaker, a simulation of the Middle East peace process, twice -- once while playing as the Israeli prime minister and once as the Palestinian president.
In both cases, students must respond to a rapidly evolving political situation by choosing which actions -- building settlements, launching rockets, making speeches -- are most likely to broker peace. The Scappoose, Oregon, teachers have played PeaceMaker with more than a dozen sections of their freshman global-studies and junior international-relations classes, and they say gaming is an effective way to explore intricate political issues. Indeed, PeaceMaker is at the forefront of a movement -- often called serious games or social-issues games -- in which educators use games to illustrate complex social issues, from immigration to climate change.