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Incorporating Lessons on Peacemaking with Literature

written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 1/26/2012

When incorporating peace and conflict studies for children into the curriculum, it is important to remember that the best learning comes from modeling. Children’s literature offers many stories that model conflict resolutions skills as well as peacemaking.

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    Time for Peace

    Objective: The main objective for teaching children how to be peacemakers is to enable them to develop skills that will help them resolve issues, learn to compromise and develop tolerance and compassion for others.

    Task: Use books to promote peacemaking and develop skills in conflict resolution. These lessons can be incorporated into the elementary school curriculum through children's literature. Stories about real life peacemakers, as well as parables and tales that teach problem resolution to children can be found in abundance.

    Introductions:

    Teachers could begin the introduction of peace studies anytime throughout the school year. Several key dates that can be used as the introduction point are:

    • September 21 - United Nations' International Day of Peace
    • October 24 - United Nations Day
    • November 20 - Universal Children's Day
    • January 11 - International Day of Peace in Kenya
    • January 27 - International Holocaust Remembrance Day
    • February 20 - World Day of Social Justice
    • March 8 - United Nation's Day of Women's Rights and International Peace
    • April 22 - Earth Day
    • May 29 - International Day of United Nations' Peacekeepers
    • June 1 - International Children's Day

    The dates above are observed by the United Nations. Teachers can find further resources at the United Nations' website.

    Other dates to consider are:

    • January 14 - Albert Schweitzer's Birthday
    • January 15 - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday
    • February 4 - Rosa Park's Birthday
    • March 31 - Caesar Chavez's Birthday
    • August 27 - Mother Teresa's Birthday
    • October 3 - Gandhi Nonviolence Peace Day
    • November 8 - Dorothy Day's Birthday
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    Stories of Peace

    Once educators have picked a day to begin teaching peace to children, they can set a focus on the books they will incorporate into their curriculum on the subject. The choices may be very specific or very general. For instance, if the choice is made to begin peace studies in September on International Peace Day, then the children's literature can be as diverse a selection as can be found. In multicultural classrooms, finding stories of peacemakers from various cultures can add to the celebration of diversity within the classroom. Additionally, multicultural peace stories demonstrate (model) for the children that peacemakers can come from every culture. This is an important realization if peace is to be truly understood.

    A few suggested books on peacemakers for children are:

    Ages 4-8

    • Hill Nettleton, P. and Nichols, G. (2006) Martin Luther King, Jr.: Preacher, Freedom Fighter, Peacemaker Minnesota: Picture Window Books
    • Hill Nettleton, P. and Yesh, J. (2006) Pocahontas: Peacemaker and Friend to the Colonists Minnesota: Picture Window Books
    • Garrison, J. and Tubesing, A. (2002) A Million Visions of Peace: Wisdom from the Friends of Old Turtle New York: Scholastic, Inc.

    Ages 9-12

    • Becker, C. (2008) Chipeta: Ute Peacemaker Colorado: Filter Press
    • A series of books with different authors. (2007) Modern Peacemakers New York: Chelsea House Publications
    • Whitelaw, N. (2004) Jimmy Carter: President and Peacemaker North Carolina: Morgan Reynolds Publications
    • Keene, A. T. (1998) Peacemakers: Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize New York: Oxford University Press

    Books on the subject of peace include:

    Ages 4-8

    • Rudunsky, V. (2004) What Does Peace Feel Like? New York: Simon and Shuster
    • Parr, T. (2004) The Peace Book New York: Little Brown and Co.
    • Katz, K. (2006) Can You Say Peace? New York: Holy and Co.
    • Spinelli, E. and Kennedy, A. (2009) Peace Week in Mrs. Fox's Class Illinois: Albert Whitman and Co.

    Ages 9-12

    • MacDonald, M. (2006) Peace Tales Georgia: August House Publishers
    • Jackson, J., Miller, S and Diaz, D. (2009) Let There Be Peace On Earth: And Let It Begin With Me California: Tricycle Press
    • Johnston, T. and Guevara, S. (2008) Voices from Afar: Poems of Peace New York: Holiday House Books
    • Wood, D. and Muth, J. (2003) Old Turtle and the Broken Truth New York: Scholastic, Inc.

    Note: These are simply suggestions of books that may be used. There are many, many more available.

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    Peace in Action

    With a date to begin and books for the students to read, the next step is to incorporate children as peacemakers' activities into the curriculum. The following are some suggestions on how to do that.

    • Have students pick a person or story they particularly feel drawn to read. Have them prepare a report on the person or story. Allow them to draw pictures to show details of what they related to in the story or with the person.
    • If the class is following a theme of study for the year, (for instance, rainforests), incorporate stories, poems and biographies of people and events related to peace and the rainforests. For example, the Pacific Northwest of America is a rainforest. Peacemakers from that area include Chief Seattle; poet, Gary Snyder; and Nobel Peace Laureate, Linus Carl Pauling.
    • In language arts, students can create peace poems. This can be done individually, or each student could write a line of a continuous peace poem that can be added to throughout the semester/year.
    • In social studies, students could have, "A Day with Peacemakers," during which they portray their favorite person.
    • In art class, students can create posters that portray their vision of peace. Prior to this, students could view various symbols of peace from around the world.
    • In science, students could learn about people who are connected to science and peace. For instance, Nobel Peace Laureates: Al Gore for Climate Control Awareness; Wangari Maathai for teaching women in Kenya to plant trees that supplied money for families as well as stopped erosion; and Joseph Rotblat, whose work brought attention to the need to create nuclear disarmament.
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    Planting Seeds of Peace

    Educators can incorporate peace and conflict studies into the curriculum at anytime throughout the year. Each peace project plants a seed that may blossom into future leaders who are dedicated to finding peaceable means of resolving issues.

References