Peace Begins With You
In addition to teaching about the wonderful life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I like to extend the celebration of his birthday into several lessons on peace; peace within our selves, peace with others and peace between nations.
Use the following quotes on peace for discussion.
- "Be the change you want to see in the world." Gandhi
- In his book Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Can the peace movement talk in loving speech, showing the way for peace? I think that will depend on whether the people in the peace movement can "be peace." Because without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace. If we cannot smile, we cannot help other people smile. If we are not peaceful, then we cannot contribute to the peace movement."
- "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." A.J. Muste
What do the authors mean? Do you agree? Why or why not? Focus student discussions on peace to be geared towards what it means to live a peaceful life for themselves and towards others; not just in terms of peace as opposed to war. Discuss what peace "sounds" like and "looks" Have you ever seen people being peaceful? How did that make you feel?
Discuss the use of MLK Jr’s initials. Make a silhouette of MLK Jr’s profile and glue down his initials in large block letters. Create one for each of your students. Display under a title “Are you peaceful like MLK Jr.?” Students can complete a corresponding writing activity to display along with their silhouettes.
Pass out a quote about peace to each student. Discuss each student’s quote and have them illustrate a poster to go with the quote and display for others to enjoy and learn from. I always took the time to laminate these beautiful posters so they would last longer for my students. Even after several years have passed I have had former students come up to me and tell me that they still have their peace poster hanging in their room.
Have students learn about the symbols for peace: dove, peace sign, laurel leaf, white flag, making the sign of peace on your fingers. Students can create their own peace mobile by illustrating these symbols on index cards and attaching to a hanger or a 2” strip of poster board taped in a circle with holes punched out for string to be tied through.
Write a class acrostic poem titled "Peace". Here is an example I did with my class.
People smiling at each other.
Everyone helping everyone else.
Always trying to be understanding.
Caring and loving others
Each of us working together for peace.
Learn the song Peace Train by Cat Stevens. Create a display titled "Get on Board the Peace Train". Cut out a long train track from butcher paper. Have each student decorate a train car (I just drew my own template and copied one for each student) and write a sentence explaining what he or she can do to make his or her home, classroom or world a more peaceful place. Take a photo of each student holding up his or her hand with the signal for peace and then add this photo to their train car.
Other possible resources:
- Peace Network
- Cat and Mouse by Tomek Bogacki
- The Hating Book by Charlotte Zolotow
- Two Eggs Please by Sarah Weeks
- Peace Begins With You by Katherine Scholes
- Talk Peace by Sam Williams
Here is a photo of a hallway display of some of our peace activities from two years ago. My students chose the theme of the clouds and wanted to hang their peace mobiles under them so it would look like it was raining peace!