Cultivating Peace in Our Schools Gathering

On July 16th  and 17th, 2013 I helped organize and facilitate a 1.5 day intensive workshop for DC area teachers to learn about peace education programs and initiatives being implemented in the DC area. In this effort, I worked closely with Laurie Segel-Moss, Assistant Director of the Center for Peacebuilding and Development (CPD) and Maura Scully, Program Coordinator for the Mohammed Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace.

The purpose of the gathering was to elevate the peace education work that orgs, schools, and teachers are already doing throughout the DC area; escalate the work of peace education by integrating the skills, methods, and models developed by the featured organizations into the teachers’ educational practice, their classrooms, and schools; and spread these methods, models and programs to other teachers, classrooms and schools after experimenting with what was shared through this gathering.

Four peace education organizations were invited that represented a diverse look at peace education. MOMIE’s TLC, Latin American Youth Center, LearnServe International, and YoKid all brought very unique and innovative methods, models and programs that were distinct from one another. MOMIE’s TLC presented their Great Person Series curriculum and invited two of their students to come and facilitate a circle process they use during their program. The Latin American Youth Center presented on the restorative justice work they have been doing in schools and communities in the DC. LearnServe International presented on the social entrepreneurship model they use to help DC area youth design and implement their own social ventures. YoKid presented on various breathing exercises and yoga practices they use with children of different ages at schools across the DC area.

The flow of the program made it possible for participants to learn the basic history, mission, and impact of each organization on the first 1/2 day through short 20-minute presentations. The participants were then able to spend that first evening thinking about what might be of value to them as an educator from what the various organizations presented, and then come to the next day’s 75 minute participatory workshops with a more focused sense of purpose in terms of what they were looking to get out of that workshop (skills, method, model, and/or total program).

Student participation and voices were a highlight of the gathering. Four slam poets from Wilson HS performed three of their poems for the group. One of the poems involved the students taking the participants’ written responses to a series of social action research questions around violence and bullying in schools and then transformed those words and responses into an amazing and powerful slam poetry performance. MOMIE’s TLC also brought in two of their students to talk about their experience with the program and to lead an icebreaker session and an affirmation exercise.

Networking was abundant throughout the gathering. There certainly could have been more time for informal conversations and meetings to take place, but even with the limited, unstructured time, there were some valuable connections that were made between teachers and the organizations and among the teachers and organizations themselves. This networking will hopefully continue through the gathering’s Facebook page and follow up gatherings.

Several initiatives, projects, and events have emerged as a result of this gathering.

Yoga in Schools Conference – YoKid reached out to AU after the gathering to see if we would be interested in participaring their 2014 conference, which they will be holding at George Washington University

MOMIEs TLC history gallery – Every year, during Black History Month, the students at MOMIEs TLC put together a gallery of amazing African American individuals. This is a roaming gallery that will potentially be housed at American University for a set period of time next year.

Filming Wilson HS Motley Society slam poetry performance – The Community Keynote, as mentioned above, involved students taking the words of the teachers and transforming them into a slam poetry performance. It was an amazing creation and a great way to end the first day. The students, as part of their portfolio, need to have their performances filmed. On August 15th, AU and the A/V department filmed them in the studio as a ‘thank you’ for their contribution to the event and to help advance their work as slam poets. This is also a video that could be featured on the AU/Peace Education webpage.

Recordings of 20 minute-presentations – All of the 20 minute presentations were filmed. We intend to share the recordings with all those who attended and those who RSVPed but never ended up coming. These are also videos that may be featured on an AU/Peace Education webpage.

Follow up gathering(s) in Spring 2014 – we hope to organize another event where the teachers share how the different methods, models, and programs have been implemented – successes, challenges, adaptations, etc.  There may be possible funding from El Hibri Charitable Foundation for this. This gathering would flip the dynamic and have the teachers doing more of the presenting/facilitation and the representative from the organizations stepping more into the participant/listening role, since the goal would be for them to learn about how aspects of their programs are working (or not working) in different schools and classrooms.

Cultivating Peace in Our Schools (part 2) – There are already organizations and teachers that would like to be a part of another gathering of this nature. Dawn and Barbara from the Waldorf School in NW would like to present and engage other teachers in their work around “social inclusion.” One Community Unity, who had two representatives from their organization attending and participating in the event, would like to be a featured organization in a future gathering. Global Kids, who had originally been slotted to be one of the featured organizations, had to back out last minute, but would be a good to include in a future event. Move this World did not have as prominent a role as the other four organizations during this event. They led an exercise during one of the break. Next time they should have a role like the other organizations. There are also several other organizations who were interviewed for Dr. Said’s “Localizing Peace” class that we could reach out to next time.

Toolkit of skills, methods, and models – The four organizations shared many specific lesson plans, exercises, and methods during the gathering. Our goal is to collect all of these into a toolkit that would involve short write up on teaching concepts related to social entrepreneurship, circle processes, affirmations, guided relaxation, great person curriculum series, and restorative justice. This toolkit would be shared with all the participants who registered for the gathering.


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