1.5 hours each week is dedicated to "Peace Work", a time to nurture our social/emotional development and build a classroom culture of respect for all.
About Peace Work is the foundation of all the learning that takes place in 3rd and 4th grade at Summers-Knoll. We believe that before students can engage in the academic material, they need to feel safe, supported, and heard. Weekly Peace Work time is two-fold: we want students to understand that conflict is a natural human interaction and also give them concrete tools and skills to help them navigate the difficult situations that will arise both in and out of school. With this, we are cultivating important skills for our changing world--the ability to effectively communicate our perspective, listen to the perspective of others, develop personal and social responsibility, and collaborate in diverse settings.
Peace Plan Our classroom guidelines follow the Peace Education Plan from the U School Approach. This plan is essential to developing a classroom culture of safety, collaboration, and joy. Each letter of PEACE represents a different classroom value: Play and be Safe Everything gets respect Awareness Communication Eudaimonia
Activities Peace Work takes shape in a variety of forms. Some days are spent setting intentions for the week based on our Peace Plan (Do we want to focus on building our Communication skills? Showing Respect for our classroom?) or reflecting on how the Peace Plan has shown up in our lives (What was one aspect we demonstrated particularly well this week? What was one principle that was a challenge for us?). In other weeks, we may hone in on a particular aspect of the Peace Plan. For example, we may explore various mindfulness, meditation, or yoga exercises in order to cultivate Awareness. These practices bring our attention to what is present inside and outside of us, and encourage us to take in our observations without judgement or criticism.
Another key component of Peace Work is Non-Violent Communication (NVC)--an approach to conflict resolution, and human interactions in general, that stems from compassion and speaking from our hearts. We spend time in class providing students with and practicing concrete strategies from NVC, such as making observations rather than evaluations, recognizing "initial" or "false" feelings and digging deeper into ourselves to name our "true" feelings, being able to connect our feelings to our needs, and eventually making requests to help us move forward from conflict. Students enjoy creating and performing skits around NVC and other conflict resolution practices during Peace Work time.
Growth Mindset, a concept developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, is another fundamental aspect of Peace Work. Dweck characterizes two main "mindsets", or ways of perceiving one's self: fixed mindset and growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe they either are or aren't born with certain talents, and that cannot change. This generally shows in students believing they either are "naturally smart" or "dumb". In a growth mindset, however, you understand that there is no limit to the growth of your abilities. It is often characterized by "the power of yet". For instance, in a fixed mindset, one might say: "I am just no good at riddles." In a growth mindset, one might say: "I cannot solve this riddle yet." We use a variety of tools and resources to help students first become aware of their mindsets they are operating with, and then to cultivate a growth mindset. You can view some of the resources we use on our Resources page.
Lastly, reflection and journaling are fundamental to Peace Work, as introspection offers an opportunity for honesty and vulnerability. Above all, Peace Work is for us--it is a time to inspect how we are interacting with ourselves and the world, and to bring compassion to our thoughts and actions. During Peace Work, we often set intentions or goals regarding what we hope for on academic, emotional, and social levels, and we use journaling as a way to mark our growth and journey throughout the year with these goals in mind. If comfortable, students share journal entries with the class, creating a space where all feel safe, heard, and connected to the cohort around them.
There are many links for each of these activities above on our Resources page, allowing you to explore these concepts in more depth.
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