The Lester B. Pearson School Board`s 11th annual Peace Summit brought together about 100 enthusiastic student delegates from elementary and high schools, all eager to learn ways in which to make their world a better place.
The theme of this year’s event, which took place Oct. 17, was With My Own Two Hands – I Can Build a Better Place, based on the Ben Harper`s With My Own Two Hands, a song about how change can happen when a single person takes action.
“This year’s theme allowed students to realize that they have the power in their own hands to build a peaceful school,” said Judy Grant, regional coordinator for Peaceful Schools International.
Activities at the Peace Summit included conflict vs. bullying, peer mediators’ roles, and Who We Are – Outside and Inside in which each group created a Caring Being from the Don’t Laugh at Me program, developed by Educators for Social Responsibility, in collaboration with Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary and designed to help address the problems of bullying, ridiculing, teasing and harassing.
According to the Operation Respect website, the Don’t Laugh at Me initiative uses music, video and instructional activities to help students recognize intolerance due to personal differences, understand that differences are positive, develop compassion for others who are different from themselves and learn that teasing, name-calling, exclusion and ridicule are hurtful.
Small group workshops included understanding conflict as well as communication and mediation from the Play it Fair program, an educational tool kit developed by the Montreal-based Equitas, a centre for Human Rights Education, which includes more than 60 games to promote cooperation, respect for diversity, fairness, inclusion, respect, responsibility and acceptance. The Play It Fair program is in place in all LBPSB elementary schools.
The Peace Summit, which was facilitated by the LBPSB’s community and spiritual animators from the student services department, included an elementary school workshop dealing with conflict resolution, with simulation of a peer mediator-led classroom workshop and a role-play puppet show activity.
Sydney Hickey and Tobe Okwuobi, both grade five students at Verdun Elementary, said the workshops would be useful to them at school.
“Sharing, compromise and taking turns, those are the things we should all do,” said Tobe and her friend, Sydney added that the summit “was a very good experience.”
One of the high school workshops dealt with restorative justice in schools, that is learning and practicing reconciliation, restitution and redemption through the use of such tools as active non-judgmental listening, conflict management mediation, restorative mediation and conference circles.
Carrie Gross Charney, a Special Needs Consultant at the school board, said the key to any peaceful resolution is to find out what happened, who was harmed , how did it make them feel and what can be done to make it right.
“Through peaceful resolution, the victim feels heard and the offender feels part of the solution,” she said noting that schools in Canada and the U.S. that have adopted the principle of restorative justice have reported a dramatic drop in recidivism.