Lesson-based guide to the concepts of peace research for you and for others specifically designed for children.
5 Spheres of Peace: Peace is Right Relationships: Seeing the Big Picture
This activity was designed to help children connect their knowledge of peace to a concrete, action-oriented definition that is based upon the development of healthy, caring, interdependent and “right relationships.” Students are given the opportunity to explore the different types of relationships they experience in the world. As students begin to identify their personal, social, political, institutional, and ecological relationships they begin to think about the very nature of these relationships. Although some of these concepts may be new, such as “institutional” or “political” relationships, this activity serves as an introduction to the idea that many different relationships beyond the walls of home and school play a role in our lives. During this activity, students play a game where they build a web of relationships. This web is a representation of our interdependence. As students recognize the many different types of relationships that influence their lives, they are challenged to think about how their individual choices and actions influence those relationships. Through this game, students not only begin to realize how these relationships are dependent upon one another but also how their actions can build peace.
Personal Peace 1: Act Out! Identifying the Emotions of Others
Students of all ages need practice in identifying and expressing their emotions. Young children often lack the vocabulary to express their emotions beyond words such as “happy” or “sad.” When challenging emotions arise, the physical nature of young children can lead some to react physically through hitting, biting, or kicking. With intentional practice in identifying and expressing emotions, students will be better equipped to understand and articulate their wants and needs peacefully. In order for an individual to sustain personal peace they must recognize strong emotions serve as a signal to stop and think about how they want to respond to the situation at hand. This consciousness takes a lot of modeling to be put into daily practice. Storytelling and acting are engaging ways for students to practice stopping and thinking about emotions through taking on the challenges of characters within a story. In this lesson, students are given the chance to review vocabulary that can be used to describe their feelings, identify the feelings of others, and brainstorm multiple ways a character could peacefully respond to a challenging situation. With much practice students will begin to see the connection between their emotions and their actions. This recognition can help students build personal peace by acting upon these emotions in ways that nurture healthy relationships with themselves and others.
Personal Peace 2: Self-Reflective Practices through Art and Journaling
Personal peace is sustained through peace processes that help us reflect on our thoughts, feelings, and actions. These reflections increase our clarity, helping us to act upon those reflections in ways that are aligned with our personal values. This clarity also enables us to communicate our wants and needs more effectively with others bringing peace from our inner lives outward. In order for students to effectively communicate with others, they need to develop these peace practices. This activity will give students the opportunity to engage in two different ways of identifying and processing their emotions: art and journaling.
Social Peace 1: Perspective Taking: Understanding the Needs and Wants of Others
Many conflicts have been waged over the inability to share scarce resources. This is true whether it be between children or nations. The most common conflicts between children are over sharing an object of desire. For children to begin problem-solving ways they can share resources, they need to first recognize the needs and wants of others. This lesson introduces students to the survival needs of all living creatures and compares differences in our personal wants. As described to students, needs may be for survival, such as food, clean water and air, or they could be emotional and physical needs. Wants fall more into the category of objects or experiences that make us feel momentarily happy but usually are not necessary for our long-term self-fulfillment. Thinking about the wants and needs of others is foundational for perspective taking, a capacity essential for conflict transformation. As students practice peacefully communicating needs and wants to others, they are taking important steps in building right relationships in the social sphere of peace.
Social Peace 2: I Feel: Communicating Needs and Wants
In lesson 4 (social peace 1) students learned that all people have needs and wants. The ability to communicate needs, wants, and emotions in ways others can respond to peacefully is important in building social peace. When a conflict arises, expressing emotions using “I feel” statements can open up the conversation rather than put others in a defensive or reactive position. Using the words “I feel” communicates feelings clearly without blaming others for your emotions. Children can recognize the usefulness of “I feel” statements when they are given examples of responses to conflict: one using an “I feel” statement, the other without. This exercise will engage students in thinking about how they communicate their feelings during a conflict. It will also give students the opportunity to practice using “I feel” statements. “I feel” statements are tools for children to use as they begin to communicate their emotions. Communicating emotions and listening to others is a skill developed with much practice over time. This lesson is merely an introduction to the important communication skills needed to sustain peace within relationships.
Political Peace: Our Town: Creating Rights and Responsibilities for Communities
Political engagement is an experience unknown to many children. Students may be familiar with the voting process or community dialogue if their parents are active in schools, religious institutions, or politics. With the busyness of modern life, community involvement is becoming less common in family life. Even with parental modeling, many students have never been given the opportunity to engage in the decision-making processes that impact their lives. Teachers and schools often dictate the rules students abide by while on campus. At home, parents decide the rules and consequences for breaking those rules. Through their high school years, students are given behavioral guidelines by the institutions they belong to, leaving them ill-equipped to engage in the dialogue which awaits them in the larger community. Students not only lack the skills to advocate for themselves, they also have little experience with processes that can help build peace in political decision-making.
The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the political sphere of peacebuilding by examining processes used in group decision-making and the concept that individual and communal responsibilities work to ensure the rights of all community members. Facilitating group decision-making processes of many kinds such as voting, consensus building, and collaborative projects along with student reflections on experiencing these processes can nurture the skills needed to build peace while engaging in the political sphere. Through personal experience, students can reflect upon which of these processes are effective and contribute to peacebuilding. Introducing the concepts of rights and their corresponding responsibilities can help students begin to see political involvement as a social responsibility that can help ensure the rights they hope to enjoy.
Political Peace 2: Understanding Opinions
Intentional reflection on how opinions are formed and ways of managing differences in opinion can be useful for students of all ages. As students begin to develop opinions and see differences, it is important they are provided with many peacebuilding strategies they can utilize when faced with these conflicts. Through building perspective-taking skills, children can develop capacities to manage differences in opinions constructively. Knowing and acknowledging alternative per- spectives can lead to new solutions and conflict prevention. Students can rely on the skills used for building right relationships in the social sphere as they navigate new relationship challenges in larger group settings and the political sphere.
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