Incorporating Peace Education in the Montessori Classroom
by Erica Blanco
As International Day of Peace approaches, I think of my classroom, my students as individuals, and even myself and wonder, “Is there enough focus on Peace Education as much as I teach math and language?” To be honest, I, as a teacher, sometimes find it hard to find a good balance. Schools, administration, parents, and even teachers themselves can get hung up on the academics part and forget the true purpose of this education and what makes it special and important. We, as a collective whole, ask the question, “Is he good enough?” when we should be asking “what is he good at doing?” For Montessori, peace was on the forefront of her mind when she created this model of education. Montessori said, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.” (Education and Peace, p viii, Foreword)
While researching for this article, I visited websites of some local Montessori schools. I was looking for an in-depth mention of Peace Education. Out of 9 schools, only one had a page and thorough description of Peace Education. Some of the websites mentioned it when talking about curriculum, but even then it was just a few lines. All of the websites mentioned the materials and prepared environment, the natural curiosity of a child, and other topics that you would expect to find on a Montessori website. If Peace Education was the most important goal of Maria Montessori, why aren’t we as educators and schools talking about this?
Before we go any further, I would like to define Peace Education. There are many activities and curriculums that have this label, but there seems to be a difference of definition. For the sake of this article, I am going to define Peace Education as, “anything that teaches anyone how to be more peaceful with themselves, others, and the world.” I know that definition is vague, but this term is like a huge umbrella that covers many topics. Cosmic Education is another term I would like to define. These two terms have been used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Cosmic Education focuses mainly on the elementary years. This is when the child starts to understand how everything is connected and has a job. It’s about the beauty of becoming the person who you want to be and figuring out what you will contribute to the universe. Cosmic Education definitely fits under the “Peace Education” umbrella.
All you have to do is take a look around to realize the importance and need for Peace Education. I watched a car drive up a grassy hill to cut off a truck. The truck almost crashed into it. There is no reason for this type of recklessness. This man did not care about himself or others. Yes, we all want to go home, but there has to be a regard and respect for others. I share this example because it is a reminder of how Peace Education can transform the world just by eliminating these small problems.
In regards to the example above, I realize that peace begins with the individual. As a teacher, l think about how peaceful I am and how that reflects on the children. I know that if I am unsettled the children will know and pick up on that energy. I find that meditating in the morning, even with the children, really helps start the day is a more peaceful way. It all starts with finding peace as an individual. Just like at Montessori’s first school, Casa de Bambini, she first showed the children how to take care of themselves and they, in turn, began to take of their environment.
In order to really promote Peace Education, is first to become familiar and comfortable talking about it. Sometimes, teachers feel it could be related to religion or can be hokey, but that’s not true. You have to find your own words to describe it. Start somewhere you’re passionate about and weave in Peace Education. How does Peace Education enhance that topic and help children understand that we are all one community and one people? How does it make them a better person?
There other way that we need to promote Peace Education is by reaching out to parents and the community. I was talking to a recently yesterday and she said, “Montessori is great for the younger children, but what’s the point of it as they get older?” At this moment, I knew, her school had failed to explain the beauty and richness of Peace Education. She made a comment about it being similar to public school as they get older. I stopped her immediately and explained how Peace Education manifests itself in the different age groups. The wonder and awe as you watch the children bloom into all types of wonderful flowers is absolutely amazing. She said she had never been told that and she couldn’t believe that she was so misinformed. Getting the word out to parents and having their support and belief is crucial to the success of Montessori.
Peace reveals itself in many ways in the classroom. In an early education classroom, they play the silence game and learn to quiet their body, which helps a child feel peaceful. The classroom will be quiet, but there will be an interested buzz in the air. There will be children moving about the room and working on projects that pique their interest. Older children get time to work at their own pace and reflect on their work. The history and geography lessons teach the children about their world in the past and present. They have a greater sense of pride of humankind as they learn about its beginnings and accomplishments. They see connections that transcend time and place. They begin to see everything as one, which is the goal of Peace Education. The children learn how to work as a community, help one another, and talk to each other when there is a conflict. Peace Education does radiate throughout the whole curriculum so talk about it and make sure that you make it known that Peace Education is the glue that holds all other subjects.
I read an article that was about Peace Education in the classroom. It talked about Peace Education being a part of the invisible curriculum of Montessori. If Maria Montessori wanted Peace to be the ultimate goal of education it should not be invisible. It should be talked about and celebrated and the most important part of the curriculum. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Make this the number one goal at your school or in your classroom, or even in your home. Ask the International Day of Peace is almost upon us, I just want you to think about what Peace Education means to the child and the world around us. I think it is time to make this part of Montessori become more visible.
Here is a list of useful links and books that could be useful in planning events for International Day of Peace. If you go towww.singpeacearoundtheworld.com, you will find a link to the song “Light a Candle for Peace.” It tells you which time zone you are in and when to start singing. I hope everyone will be singing on Wednesday!
What Does Peace Feel Like by Vladimir Radunsky,
The Peace Book by Todd Parr,
Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz,
Peace Curriculum through discussion by ETC Montessori:
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh,
The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: The Little Bonsai with a Big Story by Sandra Moore and Kazumi Wilds,
Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter.
http://internationaldayofpeace.org/get-involved/children-and-youth/ website with information and links- has great ideas for children
http://www.peacedayphilly.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/PEACE-BREATHING-ACTIVITY-2.pdf good breathing exercise
http://www.peacepoleproject.org/ buy a peace pole for your school
http://thepeaceflagproject.org/workshops/how-to-make-peace-flags/ making flags for your classroom
http://www.chalk4peace.org/eventinfo.html writing messages with chalk for peace
http://armedwiththearts.org/ - peace crane project- can your school make 1,000?
https://playingforchangeday.org/ peace events on Saturday, September 24, 2016 check your area for a concert near you. peace through music
http://www.peacecast.tv/ - send a peace message (already closed for 2016)
http://www.peaceoneday.org/campaigns/one-day-one-dance different peace activities involving dancing, sports, and music
http://singpeacearoundtheworld.com/ - a peace song that is sung all the way around the world