Peace Calendar Unit
Peace is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations”. The importance of creating a community of peace within our elementary school classrooms is undeniable. Our students deserve to come into a classroom each day where they feel comfortable and accepted as a part of the community. The most important factor in creating this community in each of our classrooms is exposure. If our students are not exposed to a variety of different races, cultures, and ethnicities they will not understand or necessarily accept the differences. We need to create an environment in the classroom that is rich in visual acceptance. It is important to choose posters and images that “show people within cultural groups enjoying a range of customs and activities, living in a variety of settings, and belonging to various socioeconomic groups as well as single-parent, two-parent, or extended family homes” (Stern-LaRosa).
Beyond acceptance being seen visually in our classrooms, our students need to be educated on the topic of acceptance. We need to create an understanding between and of students who come from different backgrounds. It is important we create this peace at an early age, before opinions and generalizations become a part of our students’ minds. It is in the early stages of elementary school that students begin to recognize history of, actions by, and attitudes towards different people. It is crucial at this time to develop an understanding between our students. We need to openly talk in the classroom about our differences and about acceptance.
It is our job as educators to believe in, stand for, and educate in a way that promotes peace. Desegregation and integration do not come hand-in-hand. Our schools today are desegregated, but we must work to foster integration in the sense that our curriculum includes lessons pertaining to all races, cultures, and ethnicities. We need to focus on open communication about race, ending the era of being “color-mute” in our classrooms. Our students need to feel comfortable asking each other questions pertaining to race, ethnicity, and culture and talking with each other about their individuality. When our students are educated on and familiar with each other, they will be able communicate and work together peacefully. Lower elementary school students might not yet have a grasp on their own racial or cultural identity. We can now foster the idea of peace and acceptance in these students so when they do come into their individual identities, they are accepting. This peace and acceptance will be of all differences, not just race or culture or ability. It is important that our classrooms “cultivate an environment where questioning, critical thinking and compassion are encouraged in and out of the school setting” (Wells 1). We want our elementary school students to move onto secondary school with knowledge of society as a whole and the ability to understand their classmates, future coworkers, and neighbors. We want to “unlock in students the ability to be autodidactic, and to have a powerful understanding of their role in promoting peace in the world” (Wells 4).
Peace cannot be taught in one lesson on one day, or even in one unit in one term. It is important that our classrooms constantly promote and teach peace throughout the school year. Having lessons on the topic during one unit or on one holiday day or month “sends a message that these activities are unimportant relative to other activities. We must seek out opportunities that relate to those things that a child does daily or weekly” (Stern-LaRosa). The Peace Calendar (Nelson) is a way for peace to be ever-present in the elementary school classroom. The Peace Calendar is created as a community in the classroom, including contributions of varying forms from each individual student. The calendar is marked with internationally recognized Days of Peace and displayed in the classroom. On various Days of Peace throughout the school year, lessons pertaining to Peace are taught.
Here is the link to the unit plan document: