In this season, students and teachers can bring peace to the world. School communities can foster the development of peace within each individual, promote an understanding of diverse cultures and languages, and create a Peace Place in the building or on the playground. We can all become heroes for peace.
Read on to find out more.
Last spring I was in Todos Santos, Mexico, and saw a peace pole in a public park that was similar to one my school community had built in Massachusetts, pictured here. I was reminded of the importance of the Peace Pole Movement and the fact that today there are more than 200,000 peace poles in almost every country on earth.
The Peace Pole Project was started in Japan in 1955 by Masahisa Goi, who dedicated his life to spreading the message, “May peace prevail on earth,” in reaction to World War II and the total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, gardens, parks, and playgrounds continue to be dedicated to peace, and peaces poles are erected by schools, community groups, and civic and religious organizations.
Our school’s peace pole is the result of a joint effort by parents, students, and teachers. “May peace prevail on earth,” it says in English, Chinese, Spanish, and Swahili. Parents made the actual pole and students added their own unique paintings. Our peace pole, which is nine feet tall, is a beacon on the edge of our playground. Walking by it every day plants a seed of peace in each child. Its presence testifies that we are a community that values peace.
A word of caution: A Peace Pole Project takes time and is not without controversy, so be prepared. It took our school about one year from start to finish, and we had to overcome objections. The good news is that seven years later, our peace pole still stands on the playground.
Find out more about the Peace Pole Project, the International Day of Peace, and the World Peace Prayer Society.
You can create a Peace Place in a corner of a classroom, an area of a school library, or a guidance office. Educators for Social Responsibility has an inexpensive five-poster series that includes a teacher’s guide with lessons tied to the posters' themes. In addition to posters, you might add books, colorful floor pillows, and plants to your Peace Place.
When we become more peaceful individuals, the world is transformed. Reading books, reciting poems, and practicing meditation and mindfulness will change us. A wonderful book about peace and forgiveness is Jon Muth’s Zen Shorts. This book is suitable for all ages, especially for grades 3–6. It’s the story of Stillwater, a panda who moves into a neighborhood and is befriended by a family with three children. Stillwater tells each child a Zen parable. There are three parables within the book, each illustrated in a different style to set them apart. This complex text is a great read-aloud that will lead to deep, thought-provoking discussions. Here is a teacher’s guide for Zen Shorts and a booktalk.
Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh originally created Mindful Movements so meditators could take a movement break. These ten exercises are a combination of yoga and tai chi and are suitable for all ages. The exercises, together with conscious breathing, reduce stress and create calm and well-being. Mindful Movements comes with a DVD. I found this book at a recent conference and plan to use it soon.
If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People by David J. Smith assumes the entire world population is a village of 100 people. It is full of statistics that, when read aloud, spark great conversation with students in grades 3–8. This book can take several days to read because there’s so much to discuss. If the World Were a Village also comes with a teacher’s guide.
Here are short peace poems for students. There's peace movement music such as "Imagine" by John Lennon, which you could share, too.
PEACE IS EVERY STEP
by Thich Nhat-Hanh
Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
By Shel Silverstein
I will not play at tug o'war.
I'd rather play at hug o'war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.
Best wishes to you and your students for a happy holiday and peace in the new year!