10 Ways to Promote Peace in Your Classroom

While you’re setting up your classroom for the new school year, you’ll be planning lessons for language, math, history, and geography.

But one thing we sometimes forget to plan for is peace education.

Promoting peace was a large part of Dr. Montessori’s career – one of her most famous quotes is “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education.” She thought it was extremely important in her day; today it may be more important than ever.

Here are 10 ways to include peace in your curriculum:

1. Start by defining the word “peace” with your students. You can ask children what they think it means; their answers will probably be very enlightening. They are often surprised to realize that peace can be found many places. It doesn’t just refer to “world peace”. They can have a hand in creating a peaceful environment wherever they are.

Peace may look a little different to everyone. To me, it doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. That would be an idealized world in which none of us live. Rather, it’s learning how to deal with conflict in a way that doesn’t put the rights, wants, or needs of one person over the other. It’s learning conflict resolution skills that stress respect for the individual and the group.

2. Declare your classroom a “peace zone”. Do not tolerate any kind of bullying. Lay down ground rules at the beginning of the year that are posted for everyone to see. Have all the children agree to the ground rules (even signing the list of rules) and hold them accountable.

3. Teach conflict resolution skills. One way (that children enjoy very much) is through role-playing. Choose a time when everyone is together and there are no unresolved conflicts. Role-play different situations that you notice amongst the children. Talk about peaceful ways to resolve the conflict. You can define and discuss compromise, taking turns, and listening skills.

One conflict resolution technique that children love is to have one object in the classroom or home that is always used when children are resolving conflict. Children face each other (or sit in a circle) and whoever is holding the object gets to talk. No one can interrupt, and once the object is passed on, the next person gets to talk exclusively. I have seen this work wonders in tension-filled situations.

4. If you have an annual event, like a poetry recitation, a musical, or other performance, choose “Peace” as the theme every so often. Challenge the children to find stories, poems, and songs about peace. They may also want to draw or paint pictures of “peace” and what it means to them. Again, much insight can be gained by looking into their responses.

5. Peace education can vary by age; older children will naturally be able to get into the history of peace and conflict by studying different countries and cultures. They can participate at a higher level by researching and writing about peace and peace education.

6. Have children participate in the care of their environment, showing respect for the materials, pets, plants, and other children.

7. When studying geography, history, and other cultures, emphasize respect for the diversity of traditions and customs found around the world.

8. Consider having your school named an international peace site. The World Citizen organization heads up that project, and they have information about peace education as well.

9. Be a good example. Don’t argue with parents, your spouse, or other teachers in front of the children. Speak respectfully about other people. Don’t gossip. Show kindness. It can be easy to forget that children are watching your every move, and learn more from what you do than what you say.

10. Establish special holidays and rituals for your school or home. These can include joyful celebrations as well as sad occasions (like the loss of a pet). Everyone can share in the planning, decorating, and celebrating.

Some helpful resources:

Montessori Services has an entire section about peace and community. It includes games, books, puzzles, and pictures that promote peace and unity.

Michael Olaf has a large selection of books about peace, discipline, and character building.

This book from the Clio Montessori Series called Education and Peace contains all of Dr. Montessori’s peace-related speeches and lectures.

There are many organizations that provide conflict resolution training for teachers and parents. This would make a great parent education night (have the teachers come, too). Do a search for “conflict resolution training”, “conflict mediation training”, or “conflict resolution montessori” to find resources.

Amazon has a large selection of books on conflict resolution for kids. Be sure to read the synopsis and reviews of any book(s) you’re considering.

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31 Responses to “10 Ways to Promote Peace in Your Classroom”

  • Fran Schmidt said at August 16th, 2010 at 7:44 am :

    Thank you for posting ideas for educators to use in their classroom. It’s a great beginning! I have written about 25 peacemaking curricula for teachers and students – k-12 and have always admired the work of Dr. Montessori. It’s too bad that all schools don’t become Montessori schools. Perhaps then, we may have a generation that knows how to make and build peace.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 16th, 2010 at 7:57 am :

    Hi, Fran! Is there a place that parents and teachers could find your curricula? I’m sure it would be very helpful.

    Someone on my Facebook page once said, “Someday all education will be Montessori, and we’ll just call it “education”. I wait for the day!

  • Leptir said at August 17th, 2010 at 10:52 am :

    Thanks for this post about education for peace (and resources)! Rarely can find the article on this topic.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 17th, 2010 at 10:55 am :

    Great, glad to help. I wish there was more written about it, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Cindy Brechmacher said at August 17th, 2010 at 12:35 pm :

    Thank you so much for posting material on Peace Education. I feel it is so important in the classroom. I teach in a Montessori school and I always start my school year with Peace Education. Every book we read together is a Peace book, we demonstrate the Peace Rose, the Peace Rug and are always demonstrating and talking together about peace and how important it is in order to build our loving community. We have many activities demonstraing things we can do for peace in our classroom.With a strong community we can do anything together and we will have a wonderful school year together.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 17th, 2010 at 12:41 pm :

    It definitely is very important! I think we often make the assumption that Montessori schools are making peace a focus but some are not.

    Someone posted on Facebook that their daughter is being bullied in a Montessori school, and that the teacher is not taking steps to make it stop. It makes me sick to hear that.

    It does take effort and intentionality on the part of the educator (as you describe) but it is possible to have a peaceful classroom.

  • Jyothi Mcminn said at August 17th, 2010 at 3:28 pm :

    It is good to introduce this to the young child. Children should have the opportunity to express any feelings that are foreign to them and we as adults can give them opportunities to sort these for a peace environment. Thanks for sharing!

  • nomi said at August 17th, 2010 at 6:14 pm :

    Thanks for your ideas. You might also check out the program called Teaching Tolerance from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their wonderful materials are free and are available for 3-6 as well as elementary.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 17th, 2010 at 7:21 pm :

    That program does look good, Nomi! Thanks for mentioning it. I hope people are able to take advantage of it.

  • Debra said at August 23rd, 2010 at 3:54 am :

    Are there any resources for peace activities for toddlers?

  • Lori Bourne said at August 23rd, 2010 at 6:39 am :

    Hi, Debra! There are lots of toddler-level books on getting along (see that Amazon link I posted). As well, you could role-play conflict resolution at their level. I’m guessing if you google things like “toddler song peace” or “toddler getting along” you’ll find lots of songs and books for that level.

  • Louise said at September 6th, 2010 at 6:13 am :

    I have used many different resources and especially like Sonie McFarland’s Honoring the Light of the Child book….complete year long lessons and lots of ceremonies and hands on approach to peacemaking skills. I also use the Peacemakers book from Rebecca Yantke, (sp?) out of Minnesota, who also writes for Public School Montessorian newspaper. She uses a puppet, Peacemaker, and I use this with toddlers as well as with Primary – includes songs, lessons. We like to have monthly school gatherings around the Peace Pole, where May Peace Prevail on Earth, is written in 8 different languages. We choos songs, affirmations, Universal Plea for Peace (see Aline Wolf’s Nurturing the Spirit in the Non-Sectarian Classroom for this), and some sort of symbolic gesture or article: like bubbles, seeds ….also, for staff good reading: The Tao of Montessori can be used for yearlong “book club” discussion dduring staff development days….chapters are short, but profound. Keep promoting peace….we are educating the whole child, especially the spiritual side, and they will always remember this as part of their Montessori life.

  • Jeannie said at September 6th, 2010 at 8:27 am :

    Lori,

    Thanks for the suggestions, and for reminding us that peace is central to Montessori education.

    “The Compassionate Classroom: Relationship Based Teaching and Learning” by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson provides games and activities based on Nonviolent Communication. They are suitable for elementary and many are adaptable for primary classrooms. As my little ones grow in understanding the feelings and needs of themselves and others, their compassionate nature blossoms.

  • Sue Macfarlane said at September 13th, 2010 at 3:59 am :

    The American Montessori Society show many ideas of peace activities from around the world at http://www.amshq.org > AMS Peace activies. A search for Ursula Thrush Peace Curriculum should also give useful links.

  • Louise said at September 16th, 2010 at 9:33 am :

    We are getting ready for World Peace Day on Tuesday, September 21st. Our school community will be gathering at the Peace Pole to sing, “Light a Candle for Peace” and observe 15 seconds of silence, joining other Montessori schools from around the world in unison, beginning in Australia and circling the world. We will ring a bell and light a candle (battery ones – outside) for each continent. We will recite The Universal Plea for Peace and march to “Teaching Peace” (Red Grammar).

  • Lori Bourne said at September 16th, 2010 at 10:27 am :

    Thanks for the great suggestions, ladies! I love them all. Louise, it sounds like that will be a fantastic day for your school. What a cool sounding celebration!

  • palmy said at September 24th, 2010 at 3:16 am :

    Hi, I translated this post in Italian language in my blog. Thanks for your words!

  • Lori Bourne said at September 24th, 2010 at 5:07 am :

    Wow, it’s really neat to see my post in Italian! Thank you, I hope lots of people see it and find it helpful.

  • Fran Schmidt said at October 16th, 2010 at 3:55 pm :

    I’m working on a website: Gopher Peace and the Peace Rangers for children ages 4-9. Since I don’t have big money behind me, I will start small and hopefully it will catch on. Let me know if you think this type of program is needed.

  • Andrea said at November 28th, 2010 at 4:18 pm :

    Hi Lori! Thank you for such a great article. Your first point that peace doesn’t always mean an absence of conflict was a good reminder for me. While homeschooling 4 of our 6 kids I’ve too often fallen into the trap of thinking that peace means having a day without any conflict among them. I’ve often asked one or more of them, “are you promoting peace or discord with your brother/ sister right now? How do you think we should work through this?” Thanks for sharing excellent ideas and resources so applicable to both classrooms and homeschoolers.

  • Lori Bourne said at November 28th, 2010 at 4:20 pm :

    Hi, Andrea! Glad you found it helpful. I have to remind myself of the same thing, and make sure my expectations aren’t too high. I know I can’t go a day without having conflict with someone (hmm, Bruce, maybe?) so why should I expect my kids to have a perfect day? The key for us has been giving them tools to solve the conflicts. It’s helped a lot.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • nelly said at April 14th, 2011 at 11:28 am :

    What do you do when two kids are having a conflict in a classroom? How do you talk to then to resolve the problem?

  • Lori Bourne said at April 14th, 2011 at 12:03 pm :

    Hi, Nelly! You’ll need to think ahead and teach the entire class conflict resolution skills that they can use anytime they get in a conflict with another person. You can’t do it on a case-by-case basis.

    Please see #3 above for detailed instructions on how to teach conflict resolution skills so that kids can resolve their own conflicts when they come up.

  • Jodie said at December 11th, 2011 at 5:32 pm :

    Am thinking about the ‘teaching of peace’, and thus how the war/conflict/peace/human history/economics cocktail is explained to our children at our school – I am at an Australian Montessori school, we mark Remembrance and ANZAC days, as well as international peace and human rights days.

    This then leads to thoughts about if, how and when, to discuss ‘war’, ‘history’, ‘Current affairs’ etc. in the context of parenting as well as the context of a school system and its very many individual schools that says peace education is a central essential facet to get ‘right’. Does this mean that each teacher is as solidly versed in peace education as in any other subject, or committed to attaining that ‘competency’, specifically as articulated mainly by Montessori herself ? (and if not why not ??)

    I suspect Montessori, given the European experience of war, and her latter time in India, when she said that building peace is the work of education did not mean that educators should only expose children to selective part-truths about human nature, human history, the world today, conflict, peace etc.

    As a parent, even with this interest, I have found it difficult, impossible actually, to educate about the aspirations of what we might call world peace, or military near-redundance, in a way that is accurate and still maintains the required hopefulness, even innocence, for children. In that sense, giving them selective half-truths has seemed essential. But at what cost ? Half-truths are very nearly lies, and do seem a very large part of the problem, as much now as ever, when you think of how much we can learn of the world, really, from our media. Perhaps its that its all too easy to wish to believe every things ok here with us (if it is), or if not ok, then at least its black and white and easy, when we should know better.

    I’d like to think our lovely schools have a way of dealing with this dilemma, but do we ? I think teaching children personal conflict resolution is a good thing, essential, but I am sure its not all that Montessori meant when she put the job of peace education at the feet of parents and teachers of the children. But how to go about it, what actual lessons can convey what is true, and also hopefilled, what words to choose ?

    I will go and read all the links on the great site that you have all posted, and I really welcome discussions anyone else would like to share.

  • Lori Bourne said at December 11th, 2011 at 5:47 pm :

    Hi, Jodie! I have never heard any Montessori educator advocate giving the children half-truths about our world. Certainly, we only give age-appropriate information, and when we can tell the child is ready to know more, we tell them more.

    Certainly the history of the world can be summed up in the word “war” and there is no use pretending otherwise. I think of the North American Montessori Center upper elementary album on US History that my son and I worked through last year and wars and conflicts were covered in a way that gave facts and encouraged the student to look at all sides when analyzing events.

    Peace education is a lot more than than conflict resolution, as I hope my post shows. Children need to know there are conflicts, disagreements, and wars between countries and governments (again, age-appropriate, as with all the information we share).

    By talking about these issues, especially in upper elementary, children can begin to think about how they will deal with conflict not only while they are still children, but someday as adults.

    Also, keep in mind that this post was about promoting peace in the classroom, not about peace education in general about which much more could be said.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jodie said at December 14th, 2011 at 7:55 pm :

    Thanks Lori.

    I am sorry to have seemed offending, I certainly did not mean to be, as I’m just as critical of my own approach in this area, personally and via the school, as of anyone elses.

    I wonder now – what resources would an upper elementary Montessori teacher, for example, refer to when compiling or augmenting an album for the purposes of satisfying a student at that level of interest on the topic of world current affairs ? Then there is the issue of how it is worked through – How is it broken down into bite-size pieces, and how to be accurate yet not overwhelming and even able to convey a hopefulness.

    Lori, thank you for helping me to narrow my questioning down to a useful point to be able to go on with !

  • Lori Bourne said at December 14th, 2011 at 7:59 pm :

    Hi, Jodie! No offense taken at all. It’s a great topic for discussion – maybe I’ll write a blog post sometime about peace education in elementary.

    Thanks!

  • Jai Krishan said at January 16th, 2012 at 7:38 am :

    Thank you very much you had helped me a lot

  • Fran Schmidt said at March 1st, 2012 at 11:27 am :

    I am currently writing an article about peace education, defining it, giving specific reasons why it is needed, and how to understand why nonviolence is a major key factor. There are some excellent articles out there, but I’m hoping that this one will be read mainly by parents who hold a key to promoting this type of education. I’d like to hear your comments.

  • Fran Schmidt said at May 7th, 2012 at 2:18 pm :

    I have just started a blog and have written a Reflection on Peace Education. It is in two parts – Part 1 is the introduction and Part 2 defines it.

    I would love to hear from you after you read it. Thanks.
    Peace, Fran Schmidt

  • Lori Bourne said at May 7th, 2012 at 2:31 pm :

    Hi, Fran! I’m sure it’s lovely. Unfortunately the link to your blog is incorrect. Can you post the links to both posts correctly in a comment?

    Thanks,
    Lori

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