Let’s Hold Hands: A Lesson in Peace for Young Learners


I’m excited to share an activity I have facilitated to young learners in North Carolina, Egypt, and Bolivia.   The Let’s Hold Hands project was created by illustrator and author Susan L. Roth.  Roth co-authored Listen to the Wind, the children’s version of Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea.  This picture book uses minimal text to tell the story of a community working to build a new school, and is best known for its unique illustrations.  Roth uses bits of scraps, fabric, pieces of paper, and other materials to create textural collages for the book’s illustrations.  See example below:

Stemming from the book’s illustrations, the Let’s Hold Hands project was created.  The purpose of this project is for students from around the world to create self-portrait dolls to serve as “ambassadors of friendship.”  As part of the activity, students are instructed to use creative materials (yarn, traditional fabrics, recycled paper, etc) to create a paper doll that represents who they are.   The dolls are meant to be connected and displayed holding hands with other dolls.  When I facilitated this activity in an international setting, I took with me dolls created by American students to be connected with the dolls made by students in Egypt and Bolivia.

Here are examples of dolls created by my students in Bolivia:

Dolls created by my students in Egypt:

Susan Roth’s website features a page for the Let’s Hold Hands project: http://susanlroth.com/letsholdhands/index.htm

The website provides specific instructions for how to make the dolls, including a list of materials and a printable pattern.  There is also a link for students and teachers to submit their dolls to be exhibited on the website.

I think this activity is most appropriate for young learners, though I have done this activity with students ranging from kindergarten to high school.  Creating the dolls and using recycled materials as part of the learning experience is a lot of fun.  Students use fabrics native to their region, and dress them in traditional attire specific to their country.  A main objective of this activity is to develop a conversation around what it means to hold hands with people from around the world.  Students begin to consider how their doll will be connected, hand-to-hand  with another doll, sometimes from another part of the state, country, or world.  What does holding hands symbolize? What does it mean that all the dolls do not look the same?  What does it mean to be a part of the global community?  As always, the discussion can be tailored to be appropriate for the age level of the participants.  This activity works best when classrooms around the world can connect to share dolls across boarders.  I think of this activity as something akin to a modern day version of pen pals.

This activity best supports the two pillars of Community building and Engaging Multiple Intelligences.   I recognize it as community building because it allows students to find similarities and unite with others, while still celebrating their individual differences.  Students are encouraged to consider what makes them unique and special, and how despite any differences, they are capable of connecting with others.  The activity also utilizes the Multiple Intelligences, encouraging students to be creative and artistic, and developing interpersonal skills.  By using recycled materials, students have the opportunity to be “nature smart” and use resources from the natural environment to create their self-portrait doll.

On her website, Susan L. Roth says “these hand-made collages will be symbols for the good will of today’s children as they work towards being tomorrow’s peaceful, accepting, respectful, adult friends.
 Put out your hand to find a new friend. Hold hands across the street, across the city, state or country. Hold hands across the ocean.”

2 thoughts on “Let’s Hold Hands: A Lesson in Peace for Young Learners

  1. I love the idea of creating dolls that represent ourselves and can point out our differences and connecting them with people from around the world. My aunt made similar dolls of my sister and I when we were younger and even the slight differences in detail she put into them really showed how unique we are even though we are sisters. Instead of physically connecting with people from around the world, these dolls could be ambassadors to travel and connect with other people!

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