________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007


Creating Caring Schools: Peace-Promoting Activities for All Seasons.

Hetty van Gurp.
Annapolis Royal, NS: Peaceful Schools International, 2007.
86 pp., includes CD, (pbk.) $20.00.
ISBN 978-0-973164-6-2.

Subject Headings:
Peace-Study and Teaching-Activity Programs.
Caring-Study and teaching-Activity Programs.
School environment.


Review by Gary Babiuk.

**** /4

This activity collection, which was developed in response to violence in schools and the surrounding community, including bullying, certainly fits with teachers and schools staffs that are interested in helping students live peacefully in a very violent world. Students are bombarded daily with images and sounds in the media that bring war and violence to their daily attention. This curriculum book and the support that comes with it are a perfect anecdote to the ethos of “might makes right.” The activities offer structures that engage “talk” about the meaning of peace and activities that allow students to practice peace. Although the activities can be easily infused into Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum, they could also become the focus of an integrated or interdisciplinary unit.

     In the forward, Rick Lewis a counselor and teacher, summarizes the value of this book:

This volume of valuable activities will help you if you are a solitary voice for peace at your school or if you are part of a wide network of like-minded staff members. The ideas can help you start the process of bringing peace to your school or can be used to add  new energy to successful programs of long standing. These peace  projects are large and small; individual, class, and whole-school;  indoor and outdoor “for all seasons.”

     I agree. The book contains 30 easily implementable activities outlined by month. Suggestions for beginning the program are outlined, and dozens of supporting websites are provided. Each activity is stand-alone but placed together can create a year-long, school wide program. There are also options and ideas for adapting to different  grade levels. Some example lessons are:

     -       International Day of Peace, Sept. 21

     -       Give Peace a Dance

     -       Gossip-Free Day

     -       Say Boo to Bullying (in October)

     -       Gifts form the Heart

     -       A Recipe for Diversity

     -       Random Acts of Kindness

     -       Pay it Forward

     -       International Earth Day

     -       Seeds of Peace

     -       Kites for Peace

     -       Celebrate Families

     Included is a CD, lyrics, and sheet music for the theme song of the program, The Right Thing To Do. It was written by John Berkmortel as a gift to the Peaceful Schools International. An outline of this support organization’s principles, benefits of membership, and how to become a member are included at the end. The criteria for membership are outlined and are a useful focus for organizing a school community interested in “promoting healthy relationships in the school setting. A collaborative approach to school-based decision-making. Curricular and/or extracurricular peace education initiatives. Teaching methods that stress participation, co-operation, problem-solving, and respect for differences. Student- and community-centred conflict resolution strategies such as peer mediation. Community service projects. Professional development opportunities for all staff focused on creating a positive school climate.”

     Hetty van Gurp, the founder of the Peaceful Schools International (based in Annapolis Royal, NS), suggests that education peace initiatives require a prerequisite will for change:

There is no single program or curriculum that will work effectively to create a school ethos in which everyone feels safe, valued, and respected. The solution to bullying and all other forms of violence is to transform the culture of the entire school. A big job, but the good news is that the transformation can be accomplished with a collective vision, commitment on the part of all involved, positive  motivation, and time -  and it does not require a lot of money!

     This engaging book, at a modest price, will help you and your colleagues get started.

Highly Recommended.

Gary Babiuk, a middle school teacher and administrator for 23 years, is currently an assistant professor in Early and Middle Years Social Studies at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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