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 called “Community and Peace”. 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.