Waging Peace in Middle School

Exploring the topic of "world peace" with students at an international
school is inspiring. The perspectives that are shared at the table come
from first-hand experiences as a local, a foreigner, a visitor, and second
-hand experiences from friends, family, and friends that have become
like family. Connected, these experiences wrap around and hug the
world in a way that those who have only seen the world or read about
it through the news, cannot. However, to activate these experiences
so that they do not stay contained within the "open-minded" student,
but mobilize and empower these students not only to be changed, but
to be the change, is another story.

According to the United Nations' website, the International Day of Peace
was set in 1981 and this day, along with the UN's other international days,
are "occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize
political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate
and reinforce achievements of humanity" (www.un.org). For years, celebrating
"Peace Week" at Lincoln Community School has been an "Elementary thing",
designated on the school calendar as "ES Peace Week". This year, Peace Week
was recognized by all three divisions.

A survey of sixth graders showed that for many students, Peace Week meant
things like wearing pajamas to school and being calm. In response, the theme
of Peace Week in the middle school was "The Hard Work of Peace". Every day
of this four-day week had its own focus, each building upon the one before it.
Monday: Waging peace within myself. Tuesday: Waging peace within my
relationships. Wednesday: Waging peace within my community and beyond.
Thursday: Reflecting on the week to create a "peace pledge" for the year. In
advisories, students discussed things that nurture and things that hurt their
inner peace, delivered letters of encouragement/gratitude as random acts of
kindness, and made flags with prayers and hopes for peace that now decorate
the middle school halls with color and positivity.

This year, the focus of peace week in the middle school was to raise awareness
of the idea that peace is not simply an absence of violence, but something to be
waged. The hope is that this idea will continue to be nurtured throughout the year
in a way that will impact every student's well-being, impact relationships that
students are building and navigating with peers and adults, and impact the local
and global community that our students are a part of. The movement of young
activists today makes it clear that we are not educating students who will one day
become the peacemakers of the future, but students who are the peacemakers
of today.

Story by Young Jae Chang-Middle school counselor