Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 4: War, Peace, and Espionage

A small, unmanned plane, equipped with what appear to be high-altitude cameras, crashed in central Brocoland. Brocoland’s Council of Scientists notified The Rock’s government. The Rock, in line with its historical policy of maintaining global neutrality, and in an effort to protect itself from accusation, notified the world about the plane crash. 

The Queen of Kittissippi claimed ownership of the plane and demanded its immediate return. Kittissippi announced they were using the plane to track a group of fugitive mice and to observe local bird migratory patterns.

The world knew that Kittissippi often sells its intelligence services to other countries. Who could have secretly been looking at Brocoland?

Adding to the international tension, the world had its first casualty of global climate change. Three days earlier, the world powers came to an agreement on climate change and limiting marker usage (because marker usage contributes to global warming, of course), but the countries did not enforce the limits they set. The Rock felt the effects and lost a significant amount of their coast to the ocean's bottomless depths. The clock continued to tick ever so steadily for The Rock and the world's coastlines.

The major powers also held the first global conference on war. The countries were given time within their delegations to make proposals on issues related to war and peace. 

The first proposal came from the one country without a military: Anyone's Land. They proposed that all countries disband their troops.

Each country was given 90 seconds to come up with a vote. Some countries displayed their lack of effective governance structures, especially when leaders within countries disagreed with one another.Eventually, this proposal failed 3-1. The only support came from Anyone's Land.

The second proposal came from Teen Land, which proposed what sounded like a global war. This proposal also failed 3-1, with Teen Land voting against its own proposal. The 3rd Graders voted for war.

The First Global Summit on War

Tiger then proposed a resolution. A 1st grader raised her hand and said: "Peace is good." The countries unanimously adopted this value statement.

Perhaps emboldened by the passage of Tiger's proposal, Anyone's Land proposed the establishment of an international court of war, with The Rock as the judge, to force those who would declare war into involuntary servitude to the world.This proposal failed 3-1, with support only from Anyone's Land. However, one of The 3rd Graders dissented from his delegation and wanted the world to know he supported creating a war court.

Only minutes later, The 3rd Graders dispatched three ships and three armies toward Kittissippi, revealing that they had made a secret agreement with Kittissippi for intelligence on Brocoland, but that the deal had not gone well.

Teen Land, after revealing and publicly apologizing for spying on their people's phone calls and emails, announced that they shut down their domestic spying program. Teen Land also announced a military alliance with Anyone's Land.

Anyone's Land, after making their own public apology for dumping chemicals in a stream that caused physical mutations of some of their citizens, continued their national strategy of selling off supplies and saving money.

Tiger sent a ship and an army in the direction of Anyone's Land... or maybe they were headed for Brocoland....

Tiger also seemed to have made some type of censorship agreement with a few other countries.

And so, on the day the world agreed that peace is good, militaries were on the move, the world was on edge, and the planet seemed to be a less peaceful place. Perhaps the next day would see greater unity as the world powers were slated to compete at the global Olympics.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Day 3: The Final Frontier

In the summer of 2015, a group of about twenty students in grades K-11 undertook a monumental task: run the world. Every decision - from trade to competition to war - was made by these young leaders. They could approach adults for advice, but the young leaders ultimately built this world. This series of blog posts documents how a group of children dealt with some of our planet's greatest challenges.

Space: the final frontier.

Since the dawn of humanity, people have looked up to the sky and wondered. What's out there? Are we alone? And will we ever know?

Decades ago, the world watched as a human set foot on the planet’s moon. But never before had a human walked on another planet.

Perhaps now was the time.

The countries of the world began a space race to reach another planet. The launch window was short - right in between the end of recess and parent pick-up time - and time was of the essence.

The day before, we had our first international trade deal between Teen Land and Anyone's Land. Glue sticks were involved in the trade.
You might be asking, why would a country trade for glue sticks?
The different countries had a different collection of supplies. Some had glue sticks, paper, and pencils. Others had pens, markers, and duct tape. Some had water colors. Others had paint brushes.

Teen Land had soda, water, and baking soda, but no vinegar,
mentos, or corks!
On this day, some countries had diet Coke. Some had mentos. Some had vinegar. Some had backing soda. Some had corks. Some had empty water bottles. Some had foam board.

Soon after the start of the day, trade talks began in earnest. The leaders had to design a rocket, determine how to power it, secure the parts needed to make the rocket, and build the contraption before 1:15 PM! And, knowing that the launch could take a while, the countries had to be ready to submit their national decisions within minutes of returning from the launch.

Finally, the countries had an opportunity to make national flags with our resident art teacher. And the flags were very impressive!


The day flew by, and it was time for the countries to have their rockets fly up.

In order to send a crew to another planet, the countries had to launch a rocket that went straight up into the air. The rocket that went the highest would reach the other planet first.

The first country to launch their rocket would be The 3rd Graders.

After much sputtering due to a faulty plug, The 3rd Graders' rocket failed to launch.

The next group was Teen Land.

Teen Land tried to reverse engineer a mentos-soda combination by pouring the soda onto the mentos. But this demonstrated the secret of the mentos-soda "reaction" - it is in fact not a chemical reaction, but a physical one in which the mentos, when dropped into soda, break the surface tension of the liquid and allow the carbon dioxide to fervently escape.
Teen Land's rocket failed to launch.

The third group to go was Tiger.

Tiger had successfully bottled up a baking soda-vinegar reaction! Their rocket launched, giving all of humanity hope for the future of space exploration.

The final group to launch was Anyone's Land. Their rocket was called Anyone's Rocket.

Like so many countries before them, Anyone's Land failed to launch.

On the third day, 3 of the 4 major countries deployed troops.
Tiger returned triumphant, having achieved perhaps humanity's greatest technological feat. But the joy in the world was soon put on hold. At the end of the day, the world saw The 3rd Graders, Teen Land, and Tiger deploy the first military forces.

Thanks to Tiger, for the first time ever, a human set foot on another planet. A global space race in a world of scarcity accelerated trade, led to a deeper understanding of what it means to have and have not, and pushed countries to form militaries. In the end, the country of Tiger was the only one able to carry the banner of their world onto another.

Although Tiger's accomplishment was unparalleled, perhaps the greatest accomplishment on this day was the fact that every country chose to participate in the search for something out there. Even the world's poorest country chose to pursue exploration into the unknown, without any promise of reward.

The curiosity of humanity never burns brighter than it does within the mind of a child.

Most of our leaders also tasted defeat, and for some the experience was emotionally overwhelming. Our fantasy world can feel real at times. But, at the end of the day, we want our leaders to learn from their experiences. The emotion shows an attachment, a passion that is unrequited by failure. But failure is good. Failure teaches. And here, at our summer academy, of all places in the real world, we want to be a safe place to fail. One reason why we are graphing our countries' happiness is to show that even a sad country can one day be happy again. We move forward without forgetting our past.

So ended the third day. The fourth would bring a new level of intrigue to an increasingly tense world: Espionage.

Day 1: And the Children Shall Lead
Day 2: Global Climate Change and the Art of Negotiation

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 2: Global Climate Change and the Art of Negotiation

In the summer of 2015, a group of about twenty students in grades K-11 undertook a monumental task: run the world. Every decision - from trade to competition to war - was made by these young leaders. They could approach adults for advice, but the young leaders ultimately built this world. This series of blog posts documents how a group of children dealt with some of our planet's greatest challenges.

Scientists agreed: The world was getting warmer. The ice caps of the planet were melting at a
high rate. This melting was causing the sea levels to rise, which meant that beaches and lands at low elevation were slowly being submerged.

Although weather is harder to predict than sea levels, many scientists also believed that the warmer temperatures were affecting the climate, causing the weather to be more extreme. They predicted that resulting droughts, famines, storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes could cause destruction and potentially large loss of life.

Although rising sea levels could eventually affect the world’s largest countries, the islands were feeling the effects already. Perhaps the most politically prominent of these islands, The Rock, announced that it would host an international conference on global climate change.

Happiness Scores after the first day.
Each morning, the countries receive feedback from their people based on the decisions the leaders made the day before. This feedback results in a "Happiness Score." When a country does not submit national decisions by the deadline, their country is in anarchy. On the first day, this happened to Tiger. Their people were not too happy.

On the second day, Teen Land (the country governed by our teenagers) and Anyone's Land (governed by 4th-6th graders) both had problems with a particularly pesky weevil problem that threatened to wipe out much of the countries' agricultural production. Anyone's Land, one of the poorest countries, had found a way to use very small but feisty organisms to control the weevil population, but they had little money to implement their solution.

Anyone's Land discussing strategy.
The 3rd Graders (the country managed by 2nd-3rd graders) discovered that markers were causing global warming! Tiger (governed by Kg-1st graders) really liked using markers.

While countries rotated to work with our resident art expert to make passports, other delegations were hard at work conducting their first international negotiations.

Teen Land and Anyone's Land eventually reached a deal trading money for nematodes. But the problem of global climate change was yet unsolved.

So began the global conference on climate change. The Rock hosted the event, and all of the major countries sent delegations to attend. The countries' representatives were initially unsure about what they could do. It just so happens that none of the leaders of any of the countries had run a country before!

After a discussion about what could happen to the world if no one did anything, and after The 3rd Graders revealed that marker usage was causing global warming, the conversation started flowing. Somehow, the countries decided to have The Rock write up an agreement limiting marker usage to 30 minutes per day.

Some countries had no problem coming to such an agreement because they had no markers. But Tiger had a bit of a problem. Their people LOVED markers!
The Rock started to parade the draft treaty from one country to the other, getting signatures from national leaders.

Tiger's oldest leader was concerned about limiting marker usage.
But Tiger's government wasn't so sure they could sign the deal anymore. With only two members of Tiger's government present as the day was winding down, the kindergartener was all about limiting marker usage. But the 1st grader was not. She was quick to point out that their people loved markers. Even when she was faced with the possibility that animals could suffer (the people of Tiger really like their animals too), she thought the people just liked their markers too much to limit their usage.

But this resistance crumbled when the leader of The Rock made a personal plea to Tiger to be the final signatory to the agreement.

And so, at the end of the second day, the countries had agreed to a climate accord. All countries promised to limit their marker usage to 30 minutes or less per day.

Global Agreement on Climate Change.
But time would tell that, on this day, what the countries didn't do was more important than what they did do. They did not come up with a way to enforce their climate agreement. They did not include ways to monitor marker usage. They did nothing to make sure the country that was so dependent on markers - Tiger - would be given some kind of concession to encourage them to put down their markers.

Still, the countries started their journey into this brave new world with cooperative spirits. The next day would challenge all of that as the heat of global trade threatened to melt some of this good will away.

Part 1: And the Children Shall Lead

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 1: And the Children Shall Lead

In the summer of 2015, a group of about twenty students in grades K-11 undertook a monumental task: run the world. Every decision - from trade to competition to war - was made by these young leaders. They could approach adults for advice, but the young leaders ultimately built this world. This series of blog posts documents how a group of children dealt with some of our planet's greatest challenges.

"Tiger!" answered the Kindergarteners and 1st graders. That was the name of their country. You see, a long time ago, a mystical tiger roamed the other lands of the world. Humankind hunted this majestic cat, almost to its extinction. Instead of accepting its destruction, this tiger left and settled in the land now managed by Kindergarteners and 1st graders. The tiger held a special place in Tiger society.

Tiger making plans.
The 2nd and 3rd graders named their country, "The 3rd Graders." The name of the country may have provided a glimpse into the 2nd graders' historic subjugation and lack of full political power. Or perhaps it was in homage to the elders of the country's ruling class. In any event, the 3rd Graders formed a chaotic government consisting of multiple magnetic leaders holding divergent opinions. Their choice of the cheetahcorn as their national animal was a miraculous agreement in its own right.

Anyone's Land was governed by the 4th-6th graders. The land didn't belong to just anybody. Rather, the country's name was a convenience for all people. Anyone's Land was actually called what anyone wanted to call it. Want to call it Paper World? Sure! Discovery Zone? Aside from potential trademark infringement, why not!? Two neighbors, living in the same country, could have very different names for the same mass of land they shared. The government of Anyone's Land required their citizens to attend college.

Finally, Teen Land was managed by a group of 7th-11th graders. Teen Land was populated by teenagers only. Parents and other adults were not allowed to reside in the country. The stated purpose of this residential restriction was to allow the teenagers to focus solely on building successful lives. Upon turning 20-years-old, the Teen Land citizen was required to leave.

The 3rd Graders at work.
On the first day, the young leaders of the world built their countries. They named them, wrote their origin stories, considered the types of government they would run, and worked on some letters of the alphabet (OK, that last part was mostly just Tiger).

They learned how many people lived in their countries and their national GDPs. This was selected randomly.

The young leaders built and budgeted for schools, hospitals, and roads. They learned how much their people cared about cultural, scientific, and academic pursuits. They started to notice the distinction between themselves as a governing entity and the millions of people they represented.

The Leadership Library.
The young leaders were introduced to the Leadership Library, filled with donated and checked-out books containing the thoughts of the world's greatest thinkers. (Thanks to the wonderful people at the Kirkwood Public Library for helping us find our world's greatest thinkers!)

At the end of the busy first day, the young leaders had to turn in their national decisions and then take some time to reflect.

Little did they know that crisis would strike the world on the very next day.

In our next blog post, we see how our young leaders dealt with the world's first challenge: Global Warming.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Just Two Days into It

Just two days into the Education Exchange Corps​ leadership academy, the young leaders have signed an international agreement on respect, a so-far unenforceable global compact on climate change restricting marker usage (human marker usage is directly linked to global warming say the scientists), and budgeted several government-run services.

The global compact on climate change was in doubt just moments before its final signing. The last country, Tiger (run by K-1), really liked markers. They had a lot of markers and they meant a lot to their people. The government was deadlocked on what to do. Only two leaders remained at the end of the day, one in favor of limiting marker use, and the other opposed to the global agreement.
One of the leaders' advisers asked about the suffering polar bears and the threat to plant life, and life in general. Still, the holdout would not budge.

I asked the leaders, "How does your government break ties?" Silence. "Well, it looks like you have two options. You can figure out a way to break the tie..." [still silence] "or you can not make a decision now and see what happens..."
"Yes," said the holdout. "We should do that."

At that moment, I realized the world's marker problem was a lot realer than I thought.

Monday, June 15, 2015

(Nukes, Rocketships, and Nation Building) + Kids = ? (Or How We Made Our Leadership Game, Part III)

ON THE FIRST DAY, the children shall lead.

We've already posted about the physical design of the leadership game and the beginning of the first day of the game.
Now for the rest of the game play.

We last left you with four councils of kids, grouped by age, running four different countries. Some may have formed governments. Others may not be sure what to do. Either choice is fine in this game of learning and experimentation.

But now, no matter how ready the young leaders are, it's time for the first Global Challenge.

The first challenge is Nation Building. The young leaders will have 70 minutes to build schools, infrastructure, a transportation network, hospitals, and a military. At the same time, they will have opportunities to meet their international counterparts at different gatherings hosted by our high school students. The first discussions of trade will occur at this juncture.

Seventy minutes may sound like a lot of time, but it will blow by quite quickly. During this time, our young leaders will:
  • determine how to make decisions within each country
  • learn how to budget
  • set an education budget
  • set an infrastructure budget
  • set a healthcare budget
  • raise an army, air force, and navy
  • negotiate with other countries
  • establish trade deals and trade routes
  • measure possible troop movement using their maps and tape measures
  • consider national tax policy
  • draft and discuss their decisions
  • submit their national decisions before time runs out.
If a country does not submit their decisions on time, they will have forfeited their turn. Consider that our analog to a congressional-gridlock-created government shutdown.

Once the national decisions are in hand, the Keepers of the Board (our wonderful high school students!) will move pieces on the board to reflect what each country has done. Every young leader watches.

Having seen the results of their choices, each students goes to their notebook and reflects upon the experience.

Then it's time to go home.

Each day - with exceptions for Fridays and some other special events - will proceed by our Daily Schedule!

The Daily Schedule

Breakfast (Program to 9:30)
Morning Debriefing
Global Challenge and Domestic Demands
Challenge Training
Challenge Research
Country Time
Global Time
Challenge Questions
Challenge Questions
Global Time + Country Time + Decisions
Journal Reflections

Each morning, after receiving updates from the high school students running the international organizations, our young leaders will meet with a new Global Challenge. Every country will hear of the Global Challenge. But each country will also receive a Domestic Demand, known only to the country the Demand affects.
These Domestic Demands are not dissimilar to Global Challenges. Their effects are usually more locally-centered, but they may not stay that way. The leaders can choose to share the details of their Domestic Demands with others, or they may keep them secret.

Because of the secretive nature of these demands, we cannot reveal them to you. But we will tell you they'll challenge students on multiple levels.

We also can't reveal too many details about the Global Challenges, but we can give you the categories!
Here is the tentative schedule of Global Challenges our young leaders will face:

The Global Challenges
Nation Building
Global Warming
Space Race
Water Scarcity
Nuclear Proliferation
Spiraling Satellite
Small Pox
Science Expo
Computer Virus
Solar Flare
Ozone Depletion
World’s Fair

On some of these days, we will have Special Guests come and present a Global Challenge and then visit each country as the leaders wrestle with what to do.

Each day, our volunteers will facilitate the interactions within and between countries. They will serve as advisers. They will help train our youngest leaders through more directed instruction, and they will assist our older leaders through guided research. They are the folks who make this game work and who make sure our kids have a great time.
Without them, our game is just a piece of paper sandwiched between some metal and plastic.
With them, our game becomes a world of learning.

And so our kids learn. We will have some instructional periods, but almost all of the learning happens during student-to-student interactions.

We believe school should be a place where students are encouraged to take responsibility, where teachers feel free to be creative. School should be a place where students can fail and then grow from their mistakes.

That's why we've created this elaborate world: So kids can learn how to run theirs.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Yesterday was the first time I ever had to bail a student out of jail.

Yesterday was the first time I ever had to bail a student out of jail.

I got one of those phone calls on my cell phone – the kind asking me if I will accept it after hearing the name of the caller. I do a lot of prisoner complaint cases, and at first I wondered how a prisoner got hold of my number. But when the name of the caller came across the line, my stomach started doing that unpleasant thing.

I pressed “5” to accept the call. I got out a notebook to take notes. I assumed this would be the last time I talked to my student before I could find a way to get him out (you only get one call, the TV told me), so I tried to be detailed. But I felt limited by the warning message at the beginning of the call telling me that everything would be recorded. I didn’t want my student to incriminate himself. So the call was brief.

My student had been at the county jail overnight. He said he would be transferred to the city jail that day – Friday – and was told he would be staying there over the weekend and perhaps even later into the week because he didn’t have the money to post bail. He was not looking forward to an extended stay. He told me he had been jailed because he had an old charge for riding the MetroLink without a ticket.

I told him I’d look into it. I hung up and called the jail holding my student. The lady there was very helpful, and she verified my student’s story: He was being held for failing to pay a MetroLink ticket. He had two old ones – one in the county, and one in the city. Because of his stay in the jail, his debt to the county was considered fulfilled. But he still owed the city time in jail, so the county would transfer him there later that day. I was told bail was $150, with an additional $20 processing fee.

I drove to the county jail where I promptly got into the wrong line in front of a visitors’ desk positioned right as you get past the metal detectors. A lady in front of me asked me if I was a lawyer. I said yes, at which point she started asking me a very long story-question about whether the government was punishing her as a whistleblower. The line was moving slowly, but thankfully fast enough so that at the end of the story I didn’t have to reveal that I was one of the government lawyers she was so upset about. Instead, we wished each other a nice day.

Like I said, the visitors’ desk was the wrong one. The officer in charge directed me to the end of the hallway to the bail window. I knew from my phone call with the jail that I had to bring cash. I told the officer there who I was looking for. She had to get permission from the city to let him out on bail. After she did, I signed some paperwork and forked over the money.

(This is also when I found out that, at the county jail, inmates are not limited to one call. My student called me maybe five times.)

I asked her how long it will take to get him out. She said it could be “awhile.” As I wandered a bit in the hallway, I asked one of the staff members at the visitors’ desk how long it would take. He said, “Today’s Friday, so probably two to four hours.” I asked if I could leave a note. He said maybe with the lady at the bail window, and he was right. I left my phone number and a place to go if my student needed a phone. I drove back to work.

When I got off the highway downtown, I got a call. My student was free just 20 minutes after I had posted bail.

I turned around, picked him up, and brought him with me. I asked about his life story – I hadn’t seen him in maybe half a year. In just that short time, my student had left the state on a bus, became a homeless but successful street performer, came back home, graduated high school, and was on his way to college at the end of the summer. He was looking for a job, applying to many places, but no one was willing to hire him, maybe because he could not commit to work long-term.

His housing situation is uncertain. He doesn’t have many clothes, and his increasingly dire situation led to some trouble with the police. Not trouble enough to land him in jail. He was in jail solely because of the MetroLink tickets.

He spent a night in jail and was threatened with another several days there because he twice could not pay the $3 admissions fee to ride the rails.

I gave him some money to get food. He hung out for a bit while I worked. As a teacher, I kind of know when a kid is starting to get bored, so I gave him a book on setting up classrooms for differentiated learning and asked for his opinion on a section in chapter 4. He read it within minutes and told me it didn’t make sense. He thought the author’s proposals for dividing children based on ability created a segregated environment and negated the possibility of students with different skill levels helping each other. He thought that creating divisions leads to less cohesiveness, decreased individualism, and a worrisome propensity for “groupthink.” (I am not prettying up his words at all, in case you are wondering.) He reminded me of a principal I once worked with. I thought one day he might grow up to be like her.

I gave him the rest of the cash I took out to pay his bail and jokingly told him to use it for the Metro. He was meeting his girlfriend downtown and, at some point, he disappeared. He doesn’t have a phone, so I’m not sure when I’ll see him again.

This young man, full of promise and intelligence and emotion, feeling manipulated and unappreciated and undervalued, has to find a way to survive for two months so he can make it to college. Instead of getting help, he got jail. He is barely toeing the line between the chance for enormous success and falling into a depressing cycle of poverty. But it seems that poverty is the only one of these two options pulling him toward it, with claws that always drag at those who would try to break away.

This is where we are today in America.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer of Kid Power

This summer, kids are taking over St. Louis.

Project One: Summer Leadership Academy
First, we're really excited for our Summer Leadership Academy. We were unable to hold our program for the first time in our organization's history last summer. But we worked hard this past year and found some amazing partners to help us hold our academy in Hyde Park yet again. Our program will put young leaders as the heads of countries in an immersive simulation, during which they will have to deal with global crises, domestic demands, and the plots of other countries in their world.

Today, I took a lunch break to visit Hyde Park and find ways to get more kids to our program (we're halfway to our goal of 60!). We have call lists from past years, but many families move, and phone numbers change. That hasn't stopped us so far. Just today, I walked into a cafe to see two of our kids reading and playing video games. I showed them a picture of our board game. They're in!

Every day feels like a scene out of the Blues Brothers: We're getting the band back together.

If you're interested in volunteering, presenting on a topic of specialty to our students, or looking for ways to give more children in St. Louis better opportunities, email me. Right now.

Project Two: Hack4Hope Hackathon
Second, we're proud to partner with so many organizations and a great core of dedicated souls to put on St. Louis's first Hack4Hope Hackathon.
During the weekend of July 10 - 12, teenagers will be immersed in technology and business. They will meet local professionals offering mentorship, learn a bit about coding and business development, and pitch a concept to a panel of judges. Students will continue to build upon their ideas through the Hack4Hope Academy, a continuing educational and mentorship program that is slated to take place over six months.

We've got some great partners on board, and we're looking for more. If you or your company is willing to sponsor the Hackathon, offer volunteers, or find other ways to collaborate, send me a message!

Together, we really can do a lot for our kids. Let us help you find a way for you to fit in.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Sunday, June 7, 2015

If Kids Rule the World, That Doesn't Mean They're Driving, Right? (Or How We Made Our Leadership Game) Part II

So far, we've talked about how to build the physical parts of the game. Now: How the game works.

On the first day, our young leaders will assemble in the cafeteria. Sitting on a table in the middle of the vast room will be the game board, covered by a sheet.

Why covered? Because humans of all ages are intrigued by mystery and surprise.

First, we introduce the adults to the young leaders. Then, we reveal the board.

Artist's rendering of excited children looking at the board.
Thanks Anat!
Behold the game board!
(Like Babe Ruth calling his shot, I'm calling these reactions: "Whoa!" "I have one of these at home!" "That's not Earth...." "Yes it is!")

Everybody can touch the board now, but this will be the last time anyone and everyone can touch it.

Why touch it at all? Kids like touching things. Nothing we can do to help that.

Then, to foreshadow what will happen with this board, we drop a magnetic piece onto it and, by the power of physics, it stands straight up.

"WOW!" "COOL!" "Can I try!?" "Give me that!"

We'll do our best to stop everyone in between the latter two exclamations. Only moments ago, we announced the no-touching rule, but it takes many repetitions to teach a new habit. Now is the time to harness the excitement of something new. Leeway is granted.

We point out the four landmasses that are home to the world's major powers. And then it's time to divide.

Our leaders will be divided into four groups. These groups will be based on age. So we will have a country of 5-6-year-olds, 7-8-year-olds, 9-11-year-olds, and 12-17-year-olds. They will meet each other, meet their advisers (our fantastic volunteer instructors!), and immediately set about creating their world.

This first day is essential; first impressions are big. If you falter early on, you lose the crowd, and it's hard to get the audience back on your side. Kids feed off energy. This first moment must be full of excitement and adventure, and the leaders must start to get acquainted with the prospect that decisions in this world - their world - will be made by them.

So we'll start them off on this path of independence. We'll have a discussion about how to interact with each other. The words "respect" and "fair" will come up a lot.
(Side note: We might write more about this topic later, but, although we all understand the importance of respect, this was personally the most troubling part of the game for me. We spent so much time designing a simulation for kids to find their own way, to learn the most effective way to act and behave based on their interactions with others. Demanding that our participants treat each other respectfully takes some of the freedom out of the simulation.
But, we need to balance total freedom with the instructional purpose. We think that balance can be achieved through a conversation with students because they'll still be generating the ideas and underlying moral framework. In the end, many of the hardest decisions we made involved a balance between freedom and instruction.)

During our first run, the four countries were Samistonia,
Yadistan, Greybourg, and Hyrule.
Each country will then receive randomly-assigned attributes. The first attribute will be geographic placement. Although the map is set, which landmass a particular group of leaders will reside on is not.

The second attribute will be population. The smallest country will have 20 million residents. The largest will have 800 million.

The third attribute will be GDP. GDP will range from $20 billion to $400 billion. We're using a common currency because OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS CRAZY ENOUGH!
The governments will initially start out with a tax rate of 50% of overall GDP. So, effectively, countries will be able to spend $10 billion to $200 billion depending on their assigned GDP. Governments can change their tax rates, but such decisions will come with consequences (more on that later).

Finally, each country will receive randomly assigned resources. These resources are used during the course of the game and can be traded between countries.

The leaders will then work within their countries to come up with country names, national stories, and a unifying culture. They'll introduce their countries to the world. They'll have a chance to meet other leaders from other countries at a series of international meetings hosted by our international organizations.

Here's another wrinkle: The international organizations will be run by some of our high school students. More on that later too!

At the end of this period of harmony and collaboration, we will introduce the world to its first global challenge, and the leaders will have only 70 minutes to come up with a plan.

Tune in to Part III where we reveal the global challenges, domestic demands, and our daily schedule!

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Food Program Coming to Hyde Park

The Education Exchange Corps will be partnering with the St. Louis City Department of Human Services to provide free breakfasts and lunches to kids in Hyde Park.

Each year, many kids depend on the City's Summer Food Program for a reliable meal. Unfortunately, many kids in the United States live under the burden of poverty. Just in the last couple of years, we have reached the point where the majority of kids in public schools are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

This epidemic does not end when the school bell rings. And it doesn't take a break over summer vacation. Children still need food.

In the Hyde Park neighborhood, we worked with Clay Elementary of the St. Louis Public Schools for years. Now that Clay Elementary is closed during the summer months, Most Holy Trinity Catholic School and Academy graciously agreed to host our summer program.

In both schools, 100% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Every single child.

Kids shouldn't be denied an education. They shouldn't be allowed to languish over the summer months, left without access to some stimulating activity that can prevent academic skill loss during their break. And on top of everything else going on in their lives, they shouldn't have to go hungry too.

I was happy to see so many folks packed into the Wohl Rec Center gym today to receive training on how to participate in the Summer Food Program. Their efforts will make sure that thousands of kids will have access to meals. We're excited to put up our yard sign in Hyde Park come July 6.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

If Kids Rule the World, That Doesn't Mean They're Driving, Right? (Or How We Made Our Leadership Game) Part I

This summer, kids will rule the world!

They will do it from an underground fortress of solitude that looks a lot like a church cafeteria. Satellite imagery, updating in real-time, will look a lot like a flat piece of paper with some plastic on top. And whatever happens will look a lot like fun, because (drum rolls now if you haven't started already) it is fun!

This post describes the physical and visual presentation of our Summer Leadership Academy: the game board. Our next posts will discuss how the game works and what volunteers do. And then, if we've got enough sugar lying around, we'll write about the challenges we faced and our herculean efforts to overcome them.

Any-who, BEHOLD! The Setting!

OK, so now it might look more like a pretty big cafeteria in a church, but allow your imagination to fill the gargantuan space! In each corner huddles a group of a country's greatest leaders, trying to guide their people through an uncertain world. The columns are decorated in different colors to signify who may caucus where. Flags and artwork line the walls, demonstrating the cultural accomplishments of the world's superpowers.

In the middle of this room sits a large world map, covered in figurines and drawings showing military movements, trade routes, and national boundaries. This map becomes the centerpiece of interest, a luring Jumanji puzzle where the journey doesn't end until the game does.

So the map!

From first glance, it looks like a poster with a little clamp on the end. But really, it's a robot in disguise!

The map is backed with sheet metal. That makes the map board magnetic. Before using just any metal, check if it is magnetic! Bring a magnet with you.

The middle layer is a printed sheet of paper. We generated a random map (actually, a bunch!), edited the image, and had it printed at a local shop.

Finally, the top level is a sheet of plastic. The plastic preserves the map and prevents tears. It also doubles as a dry-erase surface for when we draw our national boundaries and trade routes!

We attached little disc magnets to plastic toys. We used glue, but we're still searching for the right one. These magnets are so powerful, every once in a while they'll launch a piece at another if they're facing the right (wrong?) way on the ground.

Our world leaders are then ready to sail off into the unknown. 

And so the game is played, and at the end of each busy day, the map changes to reflect the decisions the kids made.

Because that's just what happens when kids rule the world.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Media Notice - This Summer, Kids Will Rule the World

Contact: Elad Gross


This Summer, Kids Will Rule the World

At the Education Exchange Corps 2015 Summer Leadership Academy, children will lead multiple countries in an immersive, challenging, and fun global simulation game.
ST. LOUIS, MO May 28, 2015—What happens when kids rule the world? The Education Exchange Corps will find out this summer!
The Education Exchange Corps is holding its 2015 Summer Leadership Academy in the Hyde Park neighborhood in the City of St. Louis to give kids space to lead, reflect, and learn through an immersive experience placing children in charge of the world for three weeks.
As the leaders of multiple countries, students will have to determine how they will govern, what their national strategy should be, and whether they should cooperate with other countries run by other students. These young leaders will face global events threatening world stability and domestic demands from their constituents, and they will have to decide how to prioritize.
“This is a world full of possibility,” said Elad Gross, President and CEO of the Education Exchange Corps. “We want to empower children now so they can fully appreciate their own capabilities and take that spark back to the classroom with them at the end of a fun summer.”
The Education Exchange Corps will also partner with local organizations to further immerse kids in dealing with global issues. ITEN, an entrepreneur support organization, will lend their expertise to students. "We are excited to show kids ways they can use technology and entrepreneurship as part of their leadership experience," said Linh Nguyen, Network Relationship Coordinator for ITEN.
The Summer Leadership Academy will start on July 6 and go until July 24, from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM on weekdays. The program is hosted by Most Holy Trinity School and Academy at 1435 Mallinckrodt Street.
The Education Exchange Corps is looking for both full- and part-time volunteers to help run the program and teach. To get involved, contact Elad at, or visit
The Education Exchange Corps ( is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing underserved children with better educational opportunities. Since 2008, the EEC has worked with over 2000 children and 200 volunteers in the City of St. Louis. Volunteers have served as summer teachers at EEC Summer Academies and part-time teaching assistants in classrooms during the regular school year.
ITEN ( provides a foundational system for entrepreneurs to work together towards building strong startups and a vibrant tech ecosystem. ITEN provides unique programs, events and access to resources that accelerate tech venture success.