A tangle of rope stretches across the room like a huge spider web. On one side, a half-dozen sixth-graders cluster, mapping their strategy. Somehow, they all have to pass through the web to the other side of the room without touching the rope. Contact with the rope sets off jingling bells, and that means the whole team has to start over. The challenge can only be completed successfully if the players help one another -- and that is precisely the point.
The spider web exercise is part of Peace Games, a program run by Yale undergraduates for students in the local schools. Peace Games teach teamwork, communication and cooperation. They also offer the youngsters a chance for some fun. The 1997 Peace Games at Yale Festival, which culminates this year's program, will take place on Saturday, April 12, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at various locations on campus.
Peace Games at Yale is based on a curriculum developed by college students to help middle school students learn conflict resolution skills. Cooperative problem solving is taught by having the children create and play noncompetitive games. Two undergraduate volunteers take each class of sixth or seventh graders through the curriculum. Generally, the program meets one class period a week for eight weeks, building to the day-long festival at the University that brings together all participants. This year, 500 children from seven different middle schools are involved: five New Haven public schools, one Hamden public school, and Our Fair Lady of Victory parochial school.
The festival will include opening and closing ceremonies, a series of interactive workshops, entertainment by Yale performers, and refreshments. The festival is free for all participants, and lunch, snacks, t-shirts and other gifts will be provided.
The Peace Games were founded six years ago by Francelia Butler, professor emerita of children's literature at the University of Connecticut UConn at Storrs. After three successful years at UConn, the festival moved to Harvard in 1993. A large contingent from New Haven participated, including Yale undergraduates and about 80 public school students. The following year, the program was fully implemented at Yale with over 500 students participating. During the past three years, more than 1,500 middle school students in the Greater New Haven area have taken part in the program.
Peace Games at Yale is entirely run by student volunteers. The program is under the auspices of Dwight Hall. Peace Games at Yale is also a charter member of Peace Games International, the newly formed umbrella organization that will work to expand the program to universities and communities worldwide. The other charter members are Harvard and Columbia.
Volunteers from several Yale organizations will be assisting at the festival, and a number of community businesses have promised donations of food or will help underwrite the cost of Peace Games t- shirts. Additional assistance comes from Yale charities drive and the Yale University Office of New Haven Affairs.
Marissa Hughes '97 of Trumbull College is director of the Peace Games at Yale; Tina Chung '99 of Branford College is associate director; and Pamela Cogan '99 of Morse College is the festival coordinator. For more information, contact Ms. Hughes at 436-1227, Ms. Chung, at 436-0892 or Ms. Cogan at 436-3142.