The pilot is starting to take off! And it’s so exciting to see. One aspect I hadn’t thought about or expected was how each of the schools (and even each of the teachers) would find their own unique and creative way to implement the Curriculum. Partly that’s because I’m handing them an open-ended Curriculum: We haven’t put the content into lesson plans and we haven’t set down a specific way of teaching the material. But this format has actually allowed teachers a certain freedom – the freedom to interact with and implement the Curriculum in ways that are much more in line with their personalities, their passions and convictions, and their artistic and academic talents. I love this – I love that the Curriculum, from the outset of the pilot program, is so diverse in its use. It is an unintentional fleshing out of one of the Curriculum’s core values: Unity in diversity. We all have the same content, but we are finding our own unique ways to pass it on to our students . . .
For example: At one school, where the Curriculum is being taught at the elementary level, they are going to focus more on the character traits of the peace heroes, trying to inspire the students to take on some of these traits themselves. The focus of the material is much less history-oriented; rather, it’s character training at its best. The idea they are toying with is to provide students with the opportunity to be peace heroes themselves during the school year even as they learn about the inspiring lives of the women and men in the Curriculum. To be a peace hero in the school context is to find ways to serve the school community. The students will be given a list of things they can do to serve, and they will have the opportunity (only by free choice) to select some thing/s from the list that they can take ownership of and become responsible for. They will also be encouraged to add service opportunities to the list, if they think of some that the teachers have missed.
It’s a wonderful initiative. Elementary school kids (fifth grade, in this case) are being given the tools to become peace heroes – to take the theoretical and turn it into something practical. Becoming a peace hero is suddenly a tangible and real possibility. It teaches the students that yes, they also can be heroes; and that even the small things in life can be acts of heroism. In fact, this project has the potential to completely reframe the students’ worldview in terms of redefining what is heroic, and who is a hero – precisely what the PHC is all about! It is such a creative idea, and I am really looking forward to seeing how it unfolds throughout the year.
Then there’s another pilot participant – in this case, a high school teacher who is using the Curriculum in her twelfth grade Current Events class – who has found her own very creative way to bring the experience of peacemaking home to her students. It’s not just something they learn about or have to research and write about, it’s something they inhabit for the space of a few class periods. How so? By making the students do some roleplaying!
What this teacher has done is put together a list of key players in a given issue (in this case, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and then assign one player to each student. The students have to read the PHC write-up (on both the issues and the peace hero), do their own additional research, and come to class prepared to represent their assigned personage in a debate that seeks to find a solution to the many difficulties arising from this conflict. The peace heroes are not the only representatives at the discussion table, but their presence changes the dynamics of the conversation: Suddenly students see that there might, in fact, be more hope for a seemingly hopeless situation; that there are people out there doing both big and small things in the name of peace that might, in the end, tip the balance in the right direction. It gives the students something to think about, as they integrate peace heroes into the complex and often depressing political tangle of current events. After the roleplaying takes place, the students are asked to write a reflection paper on the experience, which includes answering questions about how the peace heroes changed their perceptions on the given issue. I am looking forward to reading some of these papers and perhaps sharing some insights on this blog!
I find it so exciting and inspiring that these teachers have found ways to make tangible what it means to be a peace hero, to be someone who does the hard work of peacemaking. I salute these teachers for their creativity, for their ability to take the Curriculum’s content and find ways to bring its message home to their students!