Connecting a Classroom Simulation to Real Life through a Virtual Conversation

February 10, 2016-“Congratulations on being elected Prime Minister as a freshman!” USIP expert Tom Scherer told a young woman in USIP Peace Teacher Laura Keldorf’s Conflict Resolution and Global Peacebuilding class, to the class’ laughter. The Riverdale High School students in Portland, OR, had just introduced themselves and their roles for their midterm simulation, in which they are seeking peacebuilding solutions to violent extremism. To help connect their simulation to real life, the Global Peacebuilding Center arranged it for Tom, a Program Officer in USIP’s Economics and Peacebuilding Center, to join Laura’s class via Skype to speak with the students about the effects of economic interventions on violent conflict and peace. 

USIP expert Tom Scherer Skyping with Peace Teacher Laura Keldorf's class.
USIP expert Tom Scherer Skyping with Peace Teacher Laura Keldorf's class.

During the hour-long conversation, the students asked questions about how the international community, and USIP in particular, is working on countering violent extremism. “How can we make foreign aid to Syria and Iraq effective and lasting?” asked one student on behalf of his represented country. This led Tom to challenge him to think about what his country’s goals are in the region, and then to offer insight on lessons learned from Afghanistan. Another student asked about rebuilding economies after conflict ends. Tom pointed out that we often see two things: one, countries tend to bounce back in ways we might not expect; and two, we see a great deal of international interest in the beginning, but then it moves on relatively quickly.

At the end of the conversation, Tom complimented the students, “You are all very educated and prepared on this, so kudos on all the hard work you put in. I’m definitely learning some things!”

The class’ teacher, Laura Keldorf, designed this course as part of her participation in the Global Peacebuilding Center’s USIP Peace Teachers program, which offers a select group of U.S. educators the opportunity to work closely with each other and with USIP over the course of a school year as they integrate global peacebuilding concepts and skills into their classrooms. 

Learn more about USIP’s resources for educators and students.