The Faces of the Library of Congress


The Library of Congress is an institution of which many are aware, but I suspect few people stop to consider the physical buildings which house our many ideas on democracy and the world.  The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress was built in the last decade of the nineteenth century and serves as the site of the elegantly formal reading room.  The architecture of the building is fascinating, as there are scenes from antiquity to American history carved around the building.

All 33 Ethnological Heads before Installation:

Individual Heads from

Caffin, Charles Henry, Handbook of the Library of Congress. Boston:  Curtis & Cameron, 1906: p. 12-18, GoogleBooks –

For the purposes of peace pedagogy, we need only look to arches around the lower level windows in the building.  Atop each arch, visitors can see 33 faces staring back at them.  These “ethnological heads” were included in the architecture at a time when many European countries were becoming global imperial powers and just before the onset of the Spanish-American War.  In just a few years, the scientific racism of eugenics would gain international popularity as institutions of higher education sought to classify the differing peoples across the globe.

This is a difficult topic that is often ignored or faintly touched upon in secondary education.  It is difficult to bring up topics of race in many classrooms, because there is an inherent conversation of class, power, and privilege.  For varying reasons, many students are afraid to describe their perceptions of the world around them today.

This resource can be used in many levels of education, depending on how far a facilitator wishes to go.  My vision is to use it in a secondary setting, allowing students to discuss differing interpretations of the presence of these heads before having them evaluate the presence of them as positive, negative, or other.

First, I would have students analyze the picture of all the faces without much introductory context.  Students should be encouraged to note the similarities and differences between the faces, then asked to guess the purpose of these heads and where they might be located.

Next, each students should take an individual face and research the title to it, which is the generic race to which the head is supposed to belong.  This can take as much time as you like and can culminate in whatever type of sharing fits your group of students.

After students have an understanding that the ethnological heads represent 33 distinct races scientist once believed existed on the planet, they should be asked to judge if these faces should be included on the Library of Congress or not.

Their opinions will more than likely fall into two categories.  First, the inclusion of such a diverse population on the exterior of the building is a positive good for it recognizes the contributions of the entire human race to the wealth of knowledge included in the Library of Congress.  At the other end of the spectrum is the idea that such ethnological representations and heads indicate a scientific racism that focuses on the differences between people in an attempt to create a hierarchy to protect global social stratification.

Questions to consider asking students of opinions anywhere on the spectrum may include:

  • What might it mean that the faces are all the same size?
  • Does it matter that European countries were busy taking over other lands?
  • What might these heads represent in the 1890s, while much of the nation, including Washington, DC was segregated?
  • Are these accurate representations of these races, or exaggerated caricatures?

As the purpose of Social Studies curriculum across the nation is to gain a better understanding of why we as societies (local to global) are the way we are, these particular questions and themes could fit anywhere in a high school curriculum.  World History focuses on the contributions of many cultures represented by these sculptures.  The Thomas Jefferson building itself is a text to be read in American History – and especially in a DC History class.  They are much too rich a source to be ignored.

There is no wrong way to read this architecture.  Quite literally, they are etched in stone for everyone to make of them what they will.  For students, they may represent a safe venue to explore topics of race and diversity within their own communities.  To ask them if the presence of ethnological heads on a building of national significance is appropriate or not allows students to consider these questions on both a national and international scale as well

As with many of the sources I have presented this course, I believe this resource helps with reframing history and engaging multiple intelligences.

A close look at the faces reveals a fairly comprehensive ancestry of our global society.  Included in this is several ethnicities categorized as “Middle Eastern” by today’s standards.  I believe it is important to point out, in the presence of much ignorance and misguided opinions in today’s political world, that such peoples have been contributing to world cultures since recorded history began.  These contributions were recognized by scholars across the world for centuries before our current one.  It seems much ignorance and racism in the world today comes from a cultural amnesia in the wake of modern political events.

The visual aspect of analyzing the heads allows for engaging students with Gardner’s spatial intelligence.  Naturalist students may focus on the idea of how the built environment of these heads relates to the world outside the library, while interpersonal students may interpret how this resource either encourages or discourages interaction within a global society.

The fact that there is not completely right or wrong way to read this architectural feature may foster an acceptance of multiple perspectives and help students understand conflicting views are acceptable both between people and within themselves.  This would help nurture emotional intelligence in all students as well.

Several other pillars of peace education could be worked into a discussion of the Library of Congress Ethnological Heads, but I feel to discuss them would be in excess in a blog post.  When I found out about them, my mind ran wild trying to figure out how to bring such a fascinating resource into my classroom.  This is one idea I had, but I am more than open to further ideas.  This is just too good a source for a history teacher with an academic interest in race to pass up!



“Qigong is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi) or what has been translated as “intrinsic life energy”. Typically a qigong practice involves rhythmic breathing coordinated with slow stylized repetition of fluid movement, a calm mindful state, and visualization of guiding qi through the body. Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide, and is considered by some to be exercise, and by others to be a type of alternative medicine or meditative practice. From a philosophical perspective qigong is believed to help develop human potential, allow access to higher realms of awareness, and awaken one’s “true nature”.” (

My mother has recently become very involved with Qigong classes and incorporated Qigong into her daily routine. I attended one class when I was home (in Bellingham, WA) and was intrigued by the gentle, flowing movements.  After our unit on yoga and meditation, I was reminded of these practices and decided to read more into this ancient Chinese practice. I truly believe in the importance of slowing down and relaxing for better health for both the body and the mind. Yoga, meditation and Qigong provide different approaches to similar goals in breathing, relaxation and exercise. It is important for everyone to find a route that speaks to them personally, so I thought I would introduce a new addition to this unit. Read more about this ancient Chinese practice from the National Qigong Association:

The gentle and rhythmic movements of Qigong combine some of the concepts of yoga and meditation. They can be done in a variety of settings and practiced by people of any age. These methods could be used for personal relaxation and health or even incorporated into the classroom. Just as we’ve talked about benefits of meditation and yoga in the classroom, Qigong movements could be explored to stimulate different areas of the body or mind in our students.

A recent example that my mom sent to me from her instructor, Richard, focuses on self-healing Qigong for clearing the lungs, throat, sinuses and other “lung” issues. It is called the White Butterfly. This exercise can be performed seated, standing, or lying down so it could easily be used in a classroom setting. You can hold the position for just a few minutes or longer if you wish. Holding this position allows time to concentrate on breathing and meditation. Your students can breathe along with you. It would be a great exercise especially for the winter months of the year to clear sinuses, concentrate on breathing and meditation and take a few moments to relax and learn about ancient Chinese healing methods.

Exploration of Qigong could be tied into history and used as a base to explore other ancient healing methods. Ancient Chinese concepts such as ‘qi’ are also found in martial arts or feng shui which could open the conversation to a variety of discussions on history and culture. It would be interesting to explore ways in which other cultures have traditionally used practices such as these to promote peace. The conversation could open to uses of meditation by peace promoters such as Gandhi and comparing the methods used in his culture and by him to Qigong.

The Qigong methods incorporate many different movements and combinations of movements to target different parts of the body as well. It sometimes uses a combination of pressure points similar to acupressure. Just as with yoga or other forms of exercise, I would suggest taking a few classes or learning from someone else before attempting to teach these techniques to anyone yourself. There are a lot of subtleties involved in these methods and ways to combine breathing techniques with movements that are best learned and explored personally first in order to help others understand how to perform them correctly.

These exercises could work towards the peace pillar of skill-building by building skills to deal with our own stress and physical well-being or teaching our students which movements can help with different parts of our bodies and minds. Just as yoga or meditation are skills for peace of mind or exercise, Qigong practice could be incorporated to target different parts of the body. These skills could be easily practiced outside the classroom as well or built upon through further exploration.

The peace pillar on nurturing emotional intelligence could also be incorporated through getting in touch with our feelings and our bodies. Students could record the way they feel before and after these exercises or on a weekly basis after practicing three or four days a week. One adaptation that could be made throughout these exercises (which I have seen done) is to smile while performing these movements. This can help with emotional well-being just as being conscious of smiling and being positive can. These exercises could be used before lessons to create a relaxed and thoughtful environment for discussion- to get our students ready and receptive to opening up.

For more information, check out my mother’s Qigong instructor’s website:

The Potomac Conservancy


The Potomac Conservancy is a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Potomac watershed area, both land and water.  One of their current activities is creating an urban tree canopy.  To do this, they are working on planting more trees in Fredrick County, Md and have enlisted the help of K-12 students from the local area to plant over 19 acres of trees.  More information can be found on their website:

I feel this is an activity that anyone, K-12, can participate in and get something out of.  Of course different educational goals would be set depending on the age of the students.  It could be organized through a school with corresponding curriculum about the importance of trees, erosion control, how watersheds work, etc.  It could also be organized informally with a community group like scouts or church groups where the participants will be learning more about organizing activities for community benefit and maybe some environmental education about the types of trees being planted.

Personally, I would like to have an older group of students incorporate this into a section focusing on land degradation and restoration processes.  This can include run-off, man-made erosion, lack of habitat, etc.  A section like this in an environmental science class would open the door for this community service activity to become a real learning opportunity about something larger than just planting trees.  Perhaps the students can do this section before going to the activity and host an informal class or presentation at the planting for the other participants.

The two main pillars of peace education this would satisfy are community building and exploring approaches to peace. Additionally, multiple intelligences are addressed with this combination of classroom and experiential education

Nansen Model of Integrated Education


My home away from home (in terms of countries) is Macedonia. I love the people, the food, the various cultures, and in many ways this small Balkan country reminds me of my home state of Montana. I was fortunate to live in the capitol, Skopje, for nearly a year while I researched the integrated bilingual peace education model created by the Nansen Dialogue Center Skopje (NDC Skopje). NDC Skopje’s vision is of “a democratic society in which dialogue is the everyday tool for conflict resolution between individuals, groups or communities. A society in which peace, multiethnic cohesion, integration, equality and tolerance are the core values.” NDC Skopje successfully combines dialogue and peacebuilding theory with co-curricular activity to overcome local obstacles and promote peace education.

Following the violent conflict in Macedonia in 2001—largely between the Albanian minority and the Slavic Macedonian majority—schools in the country became segregated by language. This educational segregation is double edged. While all students are allowed to learn in their mother-tongue language, students are separated ethnically which creates a barrier to positive intergroup contact. For many communities in Macedonia, this has led to a “two schools one roof” situation where Macedonian and Albanian (or any other linguistically different community such as Turks) might go to school in the same building but remain completely isolated from one another. As a response, NDC Skopje designed a unique program of integrated bilingual education that works with the existing “two schools one roof” system.

In 2008 NDC Skopje opened the Fridtjof Nansen Primary School, since then NDC has worked to open a secondary school and train teachers in six other schools around the country to implement the Nansen Model of Integrated Education (NMIE). The model is unique in that it allows students and teachers to learn and teach within their ethnic groups and with their native languages for the state mandated curriculum but adds a daily or weekly co-curricular classes in which students and teachers integrate, both languages are used equally, and students and teacher collaborate on activities and projects. For example, in 2010 I was watched a wonderful bilingual rendition of Romeo and Juliet by Albanian and Macedonia students in the Mosha Pijade Secondary School in Preljubiste.

The NMIE methods targets students, teachers, and parents to promote intercultural, linguistic, and interpersonal understanding while fostering positive social contact.

The benefits from this model of education are the following:

For the students – high quality integrated extracurricular activities that will enable them acquire a variety of life skills and abilities, permanent upgrade of knowledge, strong self-esteem as well as promoting open communication, socialization, dialogue, tolerance and overcoming stereotypes and prejudices. Students also participate in various sports and cultural school and outdoor events, fairs etc.

For the parents – special programs for annual cooperation that promote their active role in school, increasing the life skills of the parents and creating habits for their continuous self-education, strengthening the cooperative relations between the parents and school staff from different communities etc.

For the school staff – professional practical and theoretical training on integrated education through the NDC Skopje Training center, variety of workshops and working literature, professional development programs and continuous upgrade of knowledge and competences etc.

For the school – improved conditions for work and a variety of equipment and contemporary didactical means, multifunctional classrooms, high quality regular and extracurricular teaching process, positive socio-emotional climate, improved cooperation between the school staff, parents and students from different ethnic communities, participation in various events and activities etc.

This peace education model is designed to meet the needs of those in Macedonia. However, their methods could certainly be adapted in different segregated school systems around the world, so long as the practitioners are careful in their adaptation to meet the needs of their respective context. I think this model could also be useful in parts of the U.S. where language barriers exist between students and communities. For example, instead of forcing Spanish-speaking students into English emersion courses, districts could start to implement an integrated bilingual program that allows English and Spanish speaking students the opportunity to learn both languages and interact with diverse populations.

NMIE is a great program and definitely touches on multiple components of peace education. I think that the two most relevant pillars of peace education that NMIE supports are skill building and community building. With NMIE students learn to develop language skills. Additionally, teachers develop bilingual and integrated teaching skills and curriculum development skills. Finally, NMIE facilitates community building between ethnic groups on the student, teacher, and parent level by promoting positive intergroup contact and collaboration. I encourage everyone to explore the NMIE resources and website!

NDC Skopje webpage:

NMIE resources:

Who Will Take the Heat?


For this blog, I wanted to look for an activity that addressed some of the things we talked about during our last class about environmental education. As a class, we discussed the degree to which we should include environmental education in schools, which led to an interesting conversation about priority of values and if teaching about climate change is pushing a political agenda in the classroom. To address that concern, I found an experiential learning lesson plan from PBS about environmental political negotiation called “Who will take the heat?” Here’s the link:

This is a policy negotiation role-play activity, and the players are the US, China, environmental movement, and international business. This activity requires the reading/discussion skills of high school or college students. For the first part of the activity, students are broken into groups and given readings for one of these four roles. Students should understand that this is a role-play, not a debate, and the lesson defines negotiation as “a process in which two or more parties seek to understand one another’s interests and create options that will reduce or remove a conflict between them.” In teams, students have to figure out what is most important to their group, what they could compromise on, and propose solutions. Before the negotiation, they go over the following terms:

  • Interests: What a group wants and its reasons for wanting them.
  • Beliefs: There are two types of beliefs—values and truths. Values are the group’s belief that it has a “right” to something or a belief in the way the world “should” be. Truth is its understanding of how and why things happen and how the world “is.”
  • Identities: These are the words a group uses to name itself and encompasses its history, culture, qualities, and characteristics.
  • Emotions: This is how a group feels about something.

Then, the teams come together in order to create a solution that fits the necessities of all of the groups. As it says in this lesson plan, this part might extend over more than one class period.

After the negotiation, the class should debrief by talking about what went well and what could have been better in the negotiation, as well as a discussion of some of the major points that were brought up. There is also a closing evaluation, and the site gives a few different options for that. Personally, I would like to close this activity by having the students pick a solution that they agreed with from the negotiation and write about their role in real life would be in the commitment. This would require them to reflect on their level of engagement with climate change, and this might create a sort of negotiation with the self about what we are and are not willing to do.

I appreciate that the activity implies that something must be done to limit our harm to the environment, but it lets students come to their own decision about what must be done about it. It does not really push a political agenda, but forces students to take on a role in a real world issue. Through discussion and negotiation, students realize how environmental policy works. The negotiation skills they will learn from this activity will be useful for them as well.

I think this class fits well into our class themes of environmental sustainability and conflict resolution. It forces students to look at environmental sustainability on a global scale, then with the closing activity that I chose, makes them apply what they learned to their own lives. At the heart of the activity is peaceful negotiation and mediation of conflicting ideals. Students have to learn how to compromise to get what they want and to listen to others.

Mattie Stepanek


I first learned about Mattie Stepanek from his interview on the Oprah show in 2001.  I was struck by his childlike innocence and inquisitiveness, and impressed by his sense of maturity and worldly wisdom.  Mattie Stepanek appeared on the Oprah show at age 11.  He suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a disease that confined him to a wheelchair and tethered him to an oxygen tank.  His message was about hope and peace.  Mattie was a philosopher, a poet, and a peacemaker.  He has over 8 published books of poetry, several of which are New York Times Best Sellers.  Mattie’s appearance on the Oprah show was commemorated as one of the top 25 moments in Oprah Show history.  Click on the link below to watch a clip of the Oprah Show interview where Mattie talks about his poetry or heartsongs.  Mattie says that everyone has a heartsong and “no matter what it is, it still sings the same beautiful message of peace and love. People are fighting over how our heartsongs are different. But they don’t need to be the same.  That’s the beauty. We are a mosaic of gifts. Each of us has our inner beauty no matter how we look.”

Watch Oprah’s reflection on her meeting with Mattie:

Back in 2004, Oprah introduced the world to an extraordinary little boy—poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek. The 11-year-old, who was wise beyond his years, became an Oprah Show regular and one of Oprah’s favorite guests. Watch as Oprah reflects on their first meeting.

I encourage you to explore the Mattie Stepanek website at:

On this website you will find Mattie’s full biography, information about programs and resources, and a description of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation.  The mission of the Foundation is “to further Mattie’s message of hope and peace by providing access to the message, promoting understanding of the message, and motivating people to action in sharing the message. Our vision is to offer educational and recreational programs, projects, activities, and resources that encourage peacemaking as a deliberate choice for individuals and for our world. We celebrate Mattie’s belief that “We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts, to nurture, to offer, to accept.” Like Mattie, we believe that “Peace is for all people!” and that “Peace is possible!”

Resources from this website can be used for students of all ages, and in a variety of settings.   A possible lesson for middle or high school students would incorporate reading one of Mattie’s books of Heartsongs during a language arts, reading, or poetry unit.  Students could read a poem by Mattie and then use this poem as a model or format to help them in writing their own poem.

The website below provides a specific lesson plan based on Mattie’s poems for a 4th, 5th, or 6th grade level literature lesson:

Or perhaps you are looking for a field trip idea?  The citizens of Rockville, Maryland created a Mattie Peace Garden and Park in 2008, shortly after Mattie passed away.  According to the website the park has a life-size bronze statue of Mattie and his service dog surrounded by chess tables.  The Peace Garden was created based on visual imagery and quotes from Mattie’s final book, Just Peace.  At the park visitors can listen to Mattie’s voice from a sound post that plays excerpts from his poetry, peace speeches, and songs.

Additional information about the park amenities and location can be found here:

Engaging students with Mattie’s life story and his books of poetry will be an empowering lesson.  Mattie’s biography is an inspiring chronicle of a young person who rose above all sorts of barriers and challenges, with a courageous and inspiring spirit.  Amid adversity, Mattie spoke a message of peace, love, and acceptance of all.  I think a lesson based on Mattie’s poetry would allow students the opportunity to tap into their heartsongs (as Mattie calls them) to realize their message and their purpose.  This will encourage students to become self aware, by providing an existing example of a young peacemaker, his message, and his goal for a more peaceful world.

This resource most supports the pillars of Nurturing Emotional Intelligence and Exploring Approaches to Peace.  By exploring Mattie’s poetry, or heartsongs, students will reflect and be sensitive to their emotions, and perhaps discover a new message or goal for themselves.  By sharing their heartsongs with their classmates they will build community and empathize with one another.  Poetry and written expression is also a way to explore a new approach to peace.  Mattie often talks about how he didn’t intend to sit down and write poems, but instead he just wanted to capture on paper the song inside his heart.  Peace through poetry is a powerful force that captures the true essence of a person’s emotional journey during his/her pursuit of peace. Mattie lived a remarkable and inspiring life, and left behind a legacy of hope and peace.  In closing, I will leave you with Mattie’s words…

Follow your heartsong.
Hope is real.
Peace is possible.
Life is worthy.
Believe, and celebrate!

PBIS for a more Peaceful School Environment


For my final blog post, I wanted to share something that I’ve been working very closely with since beginning at my middle school, and up until this semester, I had been chairing. Since starting at my school, one pervasive and difficult issue has been the culture of the school and community – it’s an understatement to say that neither is conducive to learning.  Two years ago, we began to integrate PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports – into our school and I’ve noticed the difference that it’s made.

The basic idea of PBIS is that behavior is taught like any other subject – through explicit instruction, modeling, reinforcement, etc. and that positive and/or appropriate behavior should be recognized, rather than solely punishing negative or inappropriate behavior. Additionally, programs are put into place to support students at all levels (or Tiers) of functioning – the idea being that roughly 85% of your student population are Tier 1 students, who will respond to school-wide supports, roughly 10% need Tier 2 small group support and roughly 5% will need focused individual support at Tier 3. General information on the program can be found at its website: All behavior data is tracked through an online system to consistently monitor success of the program and make adjustments.

I was able to work with several of my colleagues over the summer to further develop our PBIS program and I wanted to share part of our lesson plans that we created. Our school-wide expectations are that all students are ready, responsible, and respectful. We spent the entire first week of school working with climate and culture building and explicitly teaching expectations.  I’m including the lesson plan for Be Responsible, but if anyone is interested in PBIS material, please just let me know!

We specifically designed this lesson (and all others) with our middle school students in mind, but the content and activities could be modified for any grade level. As PBIS is a very structured program and designed to be implemented in a school setting, I would say the materials are designed for a formal classroom setting. These lessons could also be incorporated into any subject, as the types of behaviors being addressed are applicable in all areas.

PBIS has been incorporated in ways that connect to peace education throughout the past couple of years. Students develop conflict resolution skills through working with teachers and mentors. Other students learn more about emotions, emotion regulation, and interpreting others’ emotions accurately through our social skills groups.  Lessons are reinforced in classrooms throughout the year. Last year, I ran a student leadership committee, where students were able to organize the field trips, activities, and build some of the community partnerships that we established throughout the year.

My one issue with this program has been the amount of extrinsic motivation that we provide to students (field trips, school currency, shout-outs on morning announcements, etc.) for displaying appropriate behaviors, as opposed to attempting to cultivate an intrinsic motivation in students. However, from where we started, which was at one of the highest suspension rates in the state of Maryland for many different issues, to where we are now, I definitely argue that for us the program works. We still have a long way to go, but we are making progress.

One pillar of peace education that is definitely supported by PBIS is skill building. The program is designed to work with the students who most need support in the areas of conflict resolution, developing knowledge of appropriate behavior and interactions with others, relationship building (with other students, staff, and families), managing more responsibilities, and multiple other skills that help the student become more ready to learn and often times, much less violent or aggressive and much more respectful in their interactions with others.

Another pillar that is supported, and is especially important for our Tier 2 and 3 students, is nurturing emotional intelligence. Many students are bringing issues to school with them that they do not know how to or are not capable of dealing with in a non-aggressive way. These students are often pegged as the “behavior problems” from the first day of school and then have one more aspect of their lives to struggle with. Our Tier 3 students actually have daily check-ins (sometimes multiple times per day) with our crisis intervention specialist or student advocates and they learn ways to express how they are feeling and have trusting relationships with those adults. They practice in situations with other students where they are able to model appropriate social interactions and emotion regulation. Some learn strategies for going home and talking with their parents or bringing skills back into the classroom in their interactions with other students and teachers.

PBIS Sample Lesson Be Responsible (.pdf)

Louisville’s CARE For Students Program

POSTED ON BEHALF OF DANIEL KNOLL, a website designed to share information and lessons with teachers about all kinds of topics in the modern classroom, (seriously it’s a really cool website, check it out) has a page of case studies called “Schools That Work.” One of the subjects Edutopia focuses on is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Schools in Louisville have adopted what they hope will become a national standard for SEL called CARE For Students. CARE stands for Community, Autonomy, Relationships and Empowerment. Each of these four pillars shapes the idea that the students in this school district will understand how to share information about themselves with their classmates, develop positive relationships with their peers, and know how to handle conflict when it arises. CARE was developed by a Superintendent named Sheldon Berman, and Mr Berman is very clear this isn’t “touchy-feely stuff.” For Mr. Berman, CARE is “Core social skills that give kids the knowledge and experience to work effectively with others. This isn’t about being nice. It’s serious work to create a sense of community and resolve conflicts.”

One specific part of the CARE project is called a “Morning Meeting.” This twenty minute session starts with educators greeting students personally as they enter the school / classroom. Students then partake in a game or activity for 20 minutes that gets students excited to learn and comfortable sharing with others. There are all kinds of activities that take part in these “Morning Meetings,” and after watching a quick video about the program, the meetings look very similar to the types of check ins we did throughout this semester (such as Wind Blows and Roses and Thorns). I think these types of morning check ins work as an informal activity in a formal educational setting for all ages. Obviously the topic of discussion changes as the needs of the students change with age, school location etc, but the beauty of these types of activities is that they can change to adapt the needs of the community. These meetings set the tone for the rest of the day force students to think about real life conflict situations and how to best resolve them. Personally I plan to incorporate a number of the CARE For Students elements into my own classroom, especially the concept of developing positive relationships through trust and sharing, and setting the rules of the classroom. To learn more abut the details of CARE and how it works in Louisville, check out: (Morning Meetings are just a small part of the program.)

The two pillars of Peace Education that CARE best introduces in the classroom are Community Building and Nurturing Emotional Intelligence. By hosting a number of activities focused around sharing and understanding amongst classmates, CARE creates a strong sense of community between students. By having students draft and reinforce the rules and expectations of the classroom, you are developing a community that is successful as a team, and not from the teacher exerting authority over students. By creating this type of buy-in to the program, students are much more likely to keep order within the classroom. The teacher creates a safe space, and the students run with the opportunity to develop SEL. The second pillar, Nurturing Emotional Intelligence is a fairly obvious outcome from the CARE program. By teaching students how to address conflict such as bullying in a productive and safe environment, you are teaching life skills that will set them up for success far beyond their time in the classroom. Conversations about how to build relationships and address issues with others are often absent from modern curriculums, and SEL is an attempt to fill this void in student’s development. I can’t wait to use some of the lessons and techniques discussed in the Schools That Work section in my own classroom.

Peace Learner Commitments

The above podcast was recorded on Wednesday, November 14th 2012 during the Peace Pedagogy (EDU-596) course I facilitate each year at American University.  As a final assignment for the class I asked each student to develop what I called a “Peace Learner Commitment.”  A Peace Learner Commitment is:

“…a pledge to yourself, and shared with our community, to achieve a goal that seeks to build and foster peaceable learning environments.  This environment can be built in the classroom, your community, among your peers, with your family, in the work place, or for yourself.  The choice is yours.

“The key is for an element of this course that resonated with you – skill, content, activity, attitude, technique, perspective, etc. – to bear fruit outside of the (tiny) classroom we shared this semester.”

In the podcast each student shares what their commitment is.  And listening to this podcast, I can honestly say that it has been a privilege spending an entire semester with this outstanding, kind, and inspirational group of learners. The 14 students all came to the course for different reasons, with different needs, and from different professional and academic backgrounds.  Given the diversity of the learning goals and needs, as the professor for the course I really had to give deep thought to what kinds of assignments were going to actually be useful to the class.

Guide to Preventing and Responding to School Violence


I’ve chosen to loosely relate my final blog post to my Peace Learner Commitment. That commitment was made as a result of all I’ve learned about gun violence while interning at the Brady Center, and in an effort to start spreading the word about intercepting gun violence, I’d like to share this resource with you.

This Guide to Preventing and Responding to School Violence is a pretty technical examination of all the pragmatic steps that need to be in place should the worst happen – the worst, in this case, being gun violence in a school. As much as we as teachers and caregivers hope that this never touches us, the fact is, America sees a frightening amount of gun violence on a daily basis, substantially more than any other developed nation. Many of these mass shootings (considered at least four people injured or killed by one shooter at one time) happen in schools.

This document is a very thorough resource for not only teachers, but administrators, parents, community leaders, and public safety officials. It is appropriate to implement in full or in part at the discretion of a school. The important thing is that adults in schools are aware of the threat of gun violence. Not only must official emergency preparedness policies be in place, but teachers have a responsibility to keep an alert eye and ear out in order to discourage talk of violence among students. There are often warning signs of the potential for violence with weapons; the answer to confront this threat is not arming more people, but in increased communication among responsible adults about how to address and respond to violent crisis, should it unfortunately occur.

The way I interpret this resource, it can be used as a way to build a safe community. This pillar of peace education can be addressed by an unlimited number of strategies – this is just one to develop in order to serve a community if gun violence ever does become a reality. In addition, this document is a tangible method of skill building for adults in a school. It should be integrated with the crisis response plans that schools already have, and can be the worst-case-scenario guide for schools that already are committed to building peaceable communities.

As sad as it is to acknowledge, many schools in America are stuck in violent environments, in neighborhoods that experience gun violence every day. Realistic measures must be taken by people in charge to make every effort to ensure no gun crosses the threshold of their schools.