What is Peace Education?
It is a way of supporting the unique individuality of each child and giving them conflict resolution tools that will last a lifetime. It is a way of helping your child recognize his or her own gifts and strengths and work through conflicts and shortcomings as they move through the world in concert with their peers. It is empowering children to develop strong values and to be, first and foremost, true to themselves and their family’s values as they navigate the temptations life will toss in their paths.
Some might define peace as the absence of war or violence, but this view is limited. Three, four, and five year old American children are, thankfully, mostly sheltered from the scourge of war. At these young ages children are innocent, loving, trusting, and curious. They are also largely egocentric, and this is the source of most of their conflicts.
Peace Education Program
Through our peace education program, our goal is to give children concrete experiences to provide understanding of complex concepts. We offer them a “love light” as a concrete symbol of their good feelings and good intentions. They are free to wear a love light whenever they wish to tell their peers they are in a happy state. We are putting children in touch with their feelings and providing props and vocabulary for them to express those feelings.
When children are emotionally upset, it is almost impossible for them to learn. Through peace education activities, children walk a felt “Road of Difficulty” and find that they can choose to turn instead onto the “Road of Peace.” They learn that their emotions don’t have to rule their mood! They can make choices that will restore them to peacefulness and happiness. Use this simple lesson: talk to two squabbling children and suggest that they are stuck on the Road of Difficulty. Ask what might they do to return to the Road of Peace? The answers that the children provide might be deeply profound and empowering. Where once there was discord now there is peace, and the children know how to get there and that they are in control of choices that impact their moods.
Circles of Self-Awareness
Another fabulous lesson from the Peace Education curriculum involves the “Circles of Self-Awareness.” Four concentric circles give the concrete symbol for body, mind, emotion, and spirit. The largest circle represents the body while ever smaller circles are placed inside this circle to represent the mind, emotions, and the child’s spirit. By manipulating these simple materials, the child now has words to express the inner feelings he or she experiences.
The lesson stresses how taking care of your body and making healthy choices also supports those inner feelings and keeps them healthy. We practice breathing exercises to help children learn self-calming behaviors. While learning about their bodies, we might do some exercises to help children gain awareness of their muscles and then talk about how our muscles sometimes tense up when we are feeling stress. We might practice some simple yoga poses, again, to empower children to take control of their own feelings. We can tell our minds to send messages to our muscles. We can control our emotions and can turn onto the Road of Peace whenever we want.
The final circle, for spirit, lets children know that there is a power inside them somewhere that defines who they are. Everyone has a spirit or love light inside them. This is why we respect and show kindness to all, regardless of what their body may look like, even when that friend may not be kind to us. The children now recognize their friend is simply on the Road of Difficulty. Instead of creating conflict, now our little wise ones might look for ways to help their friend return to the Road of Peace.
What is Peace Education?
Maria Montessori, having lived through two World Wars, thought it was the world’s salvation.
“Everyone talks about peace, but no one educates for peace. People educate for competition and this is the beginning of any war. When we educate to cooperate and be in solidarity with one another, that day we will be educating for peace.”
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
“If we wish to create lasting peace, we must begin with the children.”
“All we are saying is give peace a chance.”