Peace: a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from civil disturbance; harmony in personal relations –Merriam-Webster online dictionary
A few years ago, at about this time, I began a peace project with my students. I don’t remember if I began for my own sanity or if something sparked the kids’ interest in this area, or what, but this year, we needed all the peace we could get. Let’s face it. This is an exciting time, and if you are a kid, you’re just about jumping out of your skin right now. Thanksgiving fell late this year. It was already December when we returned from our Thanksgiving break. Imagine three short weeks of school stand between you and the holiday you live for the whole rest of the year. My students needed some peace. I needed some peace. We needed it badly. So we began a three week journey to infuse our lives with a little bit of peace.
Because books always manage to engage us and calm us at the same time, we read a lot. We began with a colorful and simple story.
Can You Say Peace?, by Karen Katz, teaches how to say peace in many different languages. A brief history of the Nuclear Disarmament movement was discussed, and how that movement created the symbol we now know to represent peace. Winston Churchill and his “V for Victory” speech were also mentioned.
We read The Peace Book, by Todd Parr, and wrote about what peace meant to us.
Some favorite responses: Peace is a sunset. Peace is helping your teacher when she needs it. Peace is being with your family.
We discussed peace, and why we needed it in our lives. We looked at what peace looked like in different parts of the world through Barbara Kerley’s, A Little Peace.
And because kids so often think of peace as the opposite of war, we read The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter, and learned of the true story of a woman who tried to preserve peace in the midst of war.
A lot of deep breaths were taken, working to cue little bodies to become still, and little brains to become focused.
We read two books that exemplify the best parts of the holiday season, giving and kindness towards others, and then we began our own quilt based on the idea of peace on earth.
We spread a little peace throughout the school by making and sharing wearable peace signs.
Interspersed with this talk of peace we made a Night Tree.
We made ornaments.
We made crafts.
We watched the 1966 version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and we sang Christmas carols. We had a Holiday Brunch on the same day we finished our Peace on Earth quilt.
The juxtaposition between spreading peace and celebrating the season stood out in high contrast. We rode a roller coaster of excitement and calm, and for the most part the effects of each balanced the other out.
I’d love to say that we were cool, calm, and collected right up to the end, but that would be an untruth of vast proportions. We did pretty well, though. We enjoyed the time together, and we did spread a little peace into our own lives and the lives of those around us. At the end of the week, I may have taken a deep breath and done my own little “V for Victory” celebration as the last kid walked out the door. We made it. Peace on Earth. Good will toward all!