Learning by Doing

This piece originally appeared in the online Elizabethtown College Faculty Blog of Jon Rudy and is reposted here with permission.

Chicken War Sign saying "Do not tresspass or you will be dead"Things got really tense in Dapat when young John killed the neighbors chicken. In fact, tensions broke out to the point where the lowlanders blockaded the highlanders, threatening to kill any who crossed into their territory. Some tenacious villagers from the highlands succeeded in bringing the two sides together to negotiate a settlement. And then we stepped in and called a halt to the whole thing.

Tense times in the chicken war participants standing guardCalled “The Chicken War,” this fictitious scenario was one of the simulations we use regularly at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI), held annually in Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines. Written several years ago, it starts with a young highlander innocently throwing a rock and killing a neighbor’s chicken, which sparks simmering tensions into wholesale war. All too real in its narrative, we regularly cast participants as community leaders, police, apathetic citizens, and peacemakers. Also like real life, there are those present who just don’t want peace.

Chicken War Mediation participants in a circleAt MPI we often run these simulations after spending a few days analyzing conflict, learning new models of peacebuilding and viewing nonviolent tactics of conflict transformation. Our pedagogical philosophy at MPI is to not only present new theories and skills but to develop learning situations whereby participants can practice these new skills and then reflect on the gap between intentions and actualizing peace.


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