Introduction: Preparing children and young people to build a peaceful world.
Children in a healthy, peaceful community and a safe, diverse, respectful school learn many important lessons which can prepare them to contribute to maintaining and building peaceful community and a peaceful world. Children in a violent, dysfunctional community and an unsafe, uncaring school do not have the opportunity to learn those lessons, and they learn lessons that contribute to a more violent world. The whole community gains when a school becomes peaceful.
What is Peace
In order to build a peaceful school, community and world, we need a vision of what peace is, and peace is a word that has many meanings. A peaceful classroom, community and world is a complex, dynamic, changing society made up of real human beings who are in constant conflict but who have organized their society and developed skills and patterns of behavior that promote resolution of conflicts by peaceful means. All modern societies also have some police or other enforcement agency to handle those few conflicts that are not resolved peacefully.
Our democratic form of government with all of its institutions, centuries of training of our citizens in skills of democracy, and creative strategies developed by labor unions and civil rights organizations have allowed our country to resolve extremely difficult conflicts and remain relatively peaceful internally since the Civil War. The planet as a whole has been much less peaceful, and we still need to develop the institutions and skills that make it possible to maintain peace across borders.
Maintaining a peaceful society requires constant vigilance and hard work, particularly in our changing world where we are constantly confronted by new conflicts.
This website includes web links with information about several ways that schools can become more effective while teaching lessons that help students prepare to contribute to a peaceful world. In addition, several files of lesson plans on teaching conflict management skills to students are included on the WAND website.
Creating a Safe and Peaceful School and Classroom
Children learn best in an environment in which they do not have to waste energy protecting themselves from physical violence or psychological attacks. Creating a peaceful school requires collaboration between administrators, teachers, parents, and community.
Characteristics of a Peaceful School
A vision of a peaceful school supported by all adults
Agreement on fair rules and enforcement by all adults
Respect and opportunity for all children.
Resources for Creating a Safe and Peaceful School and Classroom
The following resources may give you ideas for making your school more peaceful, but they will not work unless teachers and administrators believe in them and practice them. The first step to creating a peaceful school is for the faculty and administration to come together and make a commitment to a peaceful school and to finding ways to achieve it. If the commitment is there, you will find the techniques. If the commitment is not there, the techniques will not work or even worse, if you try to teach peacemaking techniques that you do not use, children will recognize you as hypocrites. Any of the programs below can be very successful if used by a faculty that believes in them and practices them with the children.
School Conflict Management and Peer Mediation Programs.
1. “The Resolving Conflicts Creatively Program” developed by Educators for Social Responsibility website describes their program and research on its results.
2. “Peer Mediation: Study Guide and Strategies” contains a short overview of the processes of peer mediation. http://www.studygs.net/peermed.htm
3. “Violence in the Schools” An online issue of Teacher Talk from Indiana University's Center for Family Studies with articles on peer mediation and other approaches to conflict management and examples of successful schools.. http://education.indiana.edu/cas/tt/v2i3/v2i3toc.html
4. “Managing Student Behavior in Today's Schools” is a website from the University of Florida College of Education that includes information and resources on conflict management, peer mediation, and anger management programs. http://education.ufl.edu/web/?pid=305
The problem of bullies has gained attention in the past few years as research has shown that both victims and bullies can suffer long-term harm. For some children, bullying is a first step into criminal activity, and elementary school bullies whose behavior is not stopped are at risk of becoming involved with criminal activity as a teen-ager or adult. A recent study shows that both bullies and victims are at risk of mental illness later in life.
Stopping both physical and verbal bullying can have a very positive impact on the school atmosphere, on all children's learning, and on the future of the bullies. The following are some resources, but the most important factor is adults who create a school where bullying is not approved and is stopped.
1. “Yes, You can learn skills to add peace to your world!” by Lynne Namka, Ed.D. © l996. Online activities for helping elementary students overcome bullying. http://www.angriesout.com/bullyb.htm
2. “No Bully Program” A program from New Zealand. PDF file. http://www.nobully.org.nz/guidelines.htm
3. “Stop Bullying Now” Webcasts and downloadable ideas for a community anti-bullying campaign. http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/index.asp?area=main
4. Website with resources both free and for purchase. http://www.stopbullyingnow.com/
5. Web site with useful information, free and for purchase materials. http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/teens.asp
6. National Crime Prevention Council. Online resources including web activities. http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying
Conflict Management and Peace Curriculum.
The United States Institute for Peace includes resources for teaching about peace, an annual peace essay contest, and a teacher’s summer institute. See www.usip.org.
The following are some additional curriculum materials. Additional curriculum materials are available free on the WAND website.
The Kid’s Guide to Working Out Conflicts by Naomi Drew (www.freespirit.com)
Don’t Shoot: We May Both Be on the Same Side by Kathy Beckwith. Educational Media Corporation, Box 21311, Minneapolis, MN 55421-0311
A Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet by Priscilla Prutzman, Lee Stern and Gretchen Bodenhammer. New Society Publishers, P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC VOR1X0, Canada
Playing with Fire: Creative Conflict Resolution for Young Adults: by Fiona Macbeth and Nu Feri. New Society Publishers, P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC VOR1X0, Canada.