We are experiencing a time in history when actively seeking and spreading peace is more relevant than ever. Educators around the globe are asking the tough questions:
How do we talk to our students about current events?
How can we answer their questions in an age-appropriate way?
How can we prevent further division? What is the best way to focus on togetherness and create a school community that seeks peace?
There are no “one-size-fits-all” answers to these queries, but there are resources that can
support educators at this heartbreaking time. Both Kikori and our partners at Play for Peace believe that promoting peace and practicing intentional community-building is the best way to support our school families exactly where they are right now (big feelings included).
Play for Peace, who is currently celebrating their 25th year bringing together children, youth and organizations in communities in conflict through laughter, compassion and peace, has put together a beautiful compilation of activities to support teachers and students to lead their own version of a Play for Peace “Peace Event” at their schools.
What is a Peace Event?
Peace Events should be structured uniquely to your school, as every local community and school family is different. In general, a Peace Event is one that brings together a group of people to collectively focus on facilitating reflective, peace-building activities together. These activities will help participants practice celebrating differences, working on conflict resolution, and taking steps to become more inclusive, empathetic humans. In this blog, we’ll cover 3 different ways to lead a Peace Event at your school.
Why Lead a Peace Event?
Play for Peace outlines some of the potential impacts of leading a Peace Event at your school:
Promoting Peace Education: The event can serve as a platform to educate children about the importance of peace, conflict resolution, and tolerance, instilling these values from a young age. Encouraging kids to learn from past conflicts and work towards a more peaceful future can inspire them to become advocates for peace in their adulthood.
Building Classroom & School-wide Community: Organizing such an event can unite the community, strengthening social bonds and fostering a sense of unity among residents or school families.
Cultivating Social-Emotional Skills: Children and youth can develop better interpersonal skills by interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds, learning to appreciate differences, and practicing empathy.
Learning about Nonviolent Strategies: By teaching students about nonviolent strategies for resolving disputes and addressing injustice, the event can contribute to a less violent community.
Experiencing Fun and Joy!: Above all, peacebuilding events for kids can be fun, creating positive memories and experiences that can impact their lives.
How to Talk to Your Students About Peace
Discussing complex and sensitive topics, like the conflicts happening around the world, with students can be challenging, but it is important to create a safe and constructive environment for open dialogue. Here are recommendations for teachers on how to approach this conversation and talk about peace:
Understand the Basics: Before addressing the topic with your students, make sure you have a solid understanding of the conflict, its history, and the current situation. Use reputable sources to gather accurate information.
Age-Appropriate Discussion & Resources: Tailor your discussion to the age and maturity level of your students. Younger students may need a simplified explanation, while older students can engage in more detailed discussions. Utilize books, videos, and educational materials that are suitable for your students' age group. Choose materials that present information in an unbiased and comprehensible manner.
Create a Safe Space: Emphasize that your classroom is a safe and respectful space for discussing challenging issues. Encourage open dialogue and respect for differing viewpoints.
Avoid Bias and Emphasize Empathy: Present information objectively and avoid taking sides. Encourage critical thinking by presenting multiple perspectives on the conflict. Stress the importance of empathy and understanding the impact of conflict on people's lives. Encourage students to put themselves in the shoes of those affected by the conflict.
Teaching about Peace:
Teach About Peace & Highlight Peace Initiatives: Begin by teaching the concept of peace. Discuss what peace means, why it's valuable, and how it can be achieved in various contexts. Share stories and examples of peace initiatives, peacebuilders, and organizations working toward peace in the region. Focus on the positive aspects of conflict resolution.
Engage in Discussion and Respect Diverse Views: Encourage questions and discussion. Ask open-ended questions to stimulate critical thinking and allow students to express their thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge that there may be students in your class with personal connections to the conflict. Encourage empathy and respect for differing viewpoints.
Teach Conflict Resolution: Teach conflict resolution skills and the importance of peaceful dialogue. Discuss how individuals and nations can resolve conflicts peacefully.
Promote Critical Thinking: Encourage students to think critically and analytically. Ask them to consider potential solutions and ways to promote peace.
Link to Global Issues & Highlight Peace Initiatives: Connect the discussion to broader global issues related to peace, conflict, and human rights. This can help students see the relevance of these topics on a global scale.
Follow Up: Continue the conversation by periodically revisiting the topic, especially when significant events occur. This helps students build a deeper understanding over time.
Support Resources: If a student becomes emotionally affected by the discussion, provide resources for support, such as school counselors or mental health professionals.
Encourage Action: Inspire students to take positive actions for peace, such as writing letters, participating in peace projects, or learning about global organizations that promote peace.
Remember that discussing complex global conflicts like the one in Israel and Palestine can be emotionally charged. The goal is to foster understanding, empathy, and critical thinking rather than to advocate for one side or another. Your role as a teacher is to facilitate a constructive and educational conversation.
Three Ways to Lead a Peace Event at Your School:
Host a Half-Day Event: Hosting a half-day Peace Event can be a powerful way to promote unity and understanding among students and staff. You can organize engaging activities like workshops on conflict resolution, meditation sessions, or art projects that encourage peaceful expression. (See our playlist of Kikori activities) Whether schoolwide or within individual classrooms, this approach allows for in-depth discussions and experiential learning, helping students build essential skills and values associated with peace. By fostering an environment of compassion and empathy, you'll create a lasting impact on your school community.
Lead a Peace Week Challenge: Initiating a Peace Week Challenge at your school is an excellent strategy to inspire a collective commitment to peace. This event can span a specified amount of time, during which students and teachers throughout the school engage in various daily challenges that promote kindness, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. Challenges may include acts of random kindness, diversity and inclusion discussions, or community service projects. By encouraging everyone to participate and reflect on their role in creating a harmonious school environment, you're fostering a culture of peace that extends beyond the event and becomes a lasting part of your school's ethos.
Family Peace Event: A Family Peace Event held after school hours provides a unique opportunity to involve not only students but also their families in the pursuit of peace. You can organize family-friendly activities, such as peace-themed games, art projects, or mindfulness exercises, to encourage open communication and understanding within families. These events strengthen the connections between home and school, fostering a peaceful atmosphere that extends to the broader community. By engaging families in the process of promoting peace, you empower them to become active participants in creating a more harmonious and inclusive school environment.
For more details and directions about how to lead a Peace Event with your school community, download the resources linked within this blog and click here to view more within the Kikori Platform.