Peace education flourishes in elementary schools

Peace education flourishes in elementary schools

Wheeler, Edyth

PEACE EDUCATION AND CONFLICT NETWORK NEWS

There is an increasing number of programs for schools and classrooms that are designed to help children learn and grow as strong and peaceful individuals in a world of violence. These programs’ scope and focus vary, and may include one or more of the following: violence prevention, conflict resolution, peer mediation, character education, anti-bias, service learning, and peace education. Some programs are commercially published and others are “home grown.” In this column, we present the story of how one school responded to a need for peace education.

Mary Grantham-Campbell, parent of four boys, and Co-Chair of the Ward School Compact, answered our “Call for Stories” from the Spring 2002 ACEI Exchange, and sent us her story about the development of Global and Peace Education at her children’s elementary school in New Rochelle, New York. As is evident from Mary’s story, the entire school community was involved in the process; yet it did not happen overnight. We are grateful to Mary for sharing her school’s experience.

William S. Ward Elementary

Global and Peace Education

We, the Word schooling community, are giving serious attention to the challenges of student safety and campus security, emphasizing a framework of mutual respect and global peace. We are not alone. Educators, researchers, mental health professionals, and others continue to voice long-standing concerns such as: How can our children learn to work together in a world that is fast-paced and diverse? How do we facilitate meaningful relationships on the playground and in the broader community? How do we teach our children to be responsible citizens?

These concerns have permeated many conversations during Ward’s Compact meetings in the last three years. Our site-based committee has moved from mere discussion of these issues to actually working as a team to address them. In May 2000, the Compact reported to our school district that a conflict resolution/peer mediation program would benefit our schooling community in important ways. The program has become one of the Compact’s top priorities, and we are fortunate to have our district support the implementation of this program.

Concurrently, our principal, Ken Regan, has worked with teachers to develop a thematic curriculum focus. This focus includes both a “local” understanding of ourselves, our conflicts, and our community, as well as a “global” understanding of other continents, cultures, and languages. Our mission in developing this program is to have a schooling community that cares for our planet, shares the bounty of our earth, appreciates many perspectives, and listens to many voices, including the voices of children.

Our program begins as soon as kindergartners arrive. Throughout K-2, character-building values are introduced and explored. These values provide monthly opportunities for classroom discussions and community building. For example, September’s value is friendship. Students think about such ideas as: What makes a good friend? and How can I be a better friend to my classmates? Values are reinforced throughout the year through “The Morning Show,” or the kick-off assembly, as well as morning announcements.

In Grade 3, all children are trained in the following areas: anger management and selfawareness techniques; effective listening and communication (“I” messages and the like); and brainstorming solutions to conflicts (a necessary step to resolution). Our physical education teacher has developed this piece of our program and spends every Wednesday teaching peace education to all of our 3rd-graders. Third-grade teachers and parents will have the opportunity for training.

In Grade 4, all children will participate in an assembly dedicated to creative conflict resolution and peer mediation. This assembly will reinforce many of the ideas and values previously introduced. Fourth-grade children will have classroom sessions providing the basis for selection and training of mediators. Once selections have been made, 4th-grade mediators will begin their training by the end of the school year, which will continue once they return as 5th-qraders.

Other ideas for 4th-graders include: a Peace Board placed in the 4th-grade wing that showcases reflective writing and artwork related to global and peace education; dedicated journals for chronicling thoughts and ideas on peace/conflict; thoughtful pieces to be anonymously shared during morning announcements; the weekly/monthly bestowal of peace prizes, or good citizen awards, when students accumulate “caught doing good” stickers (can be awarded by any teacher or administrator, lunch monitor, or janitor to any student); and end-of– year coffee/dessert open house, for the display of artwork, writing, and music related to the year’s focus on peace/conflict resolution.

In the 5th grade, we will have peer mediators promoting conflict resolution, primarily on the playground, during lunchtime recesses. Students, teachers, parents, and adult monitors will be trained to support the program’s goals. Several parent workshops have already helped develop awareness and introduce material so that ideas can be shared and perhaps reinforced at home.

A “peace path” will be developed, which will promote conflict resolution indoors. A peace path is also being considered for an outdoor area. It would be constructed in or around the “peace garden” and would be open to all, including peer mediators from other schools and other visitors. Parents and teachers will recommend pertinent movies and activities to be used on “rainy days”; these will promote the spirit of community, interdependence, collaboration, and the like. Coordination with other 5th-grade activities (such as the Safety Squad and Student Council) is being pursued. Fifth-grade peer mediators will be acknowledged during their graduation ceremony. In addition, we are investigating the possibility of taking the 5th-graders on a field trip to the UN, either at the beginning or the end of the academic year. We are excited to be working toward peaceful playgrounds and a peaceful world.

Call for Stories Continues

Please send us (via E-mail) your stories about peace education and conflict resolution, your responses to current world events, and, especially, your experiences with children. Recommended Web addresses and other resources are welcome.

-Edyth Wheeler, Towson

University, ejwheeler@towson.edu; Aline Stomfay-Stitz, University of North Florida, astomfay@unf.edu

Copyright Association for Childhood Education International Spring 2003

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved