Grades of Green


I found Grades of Green in a Google search for how to incorporate recycling into the classroom. I did this search after one of our class modules that challenged me to consider my impact on the earth, and choose one feasible strategy for mitigating that impact. Recycling in the classroom seems a clear place to start, and thus – this resource was discovered.

This resource is designed for use in a traditional classroom, however, the ideas, initiatives and resources can easily be adapted to fit any type of organization or business. The goal of the website is to propose alternative methods of communicating and educating – those that do not use so many of our planet’s finite resources. For example, one idea they posit is to post chalkboards throughout the building to present ephemeral messages, rather than using paper (ie: bulletin boards) to do this, which ultimately creates a lot of waste as the messages change each month. While this idea is geared toward a school, it clearly can be used for any type of business or organization.

At my school, I would use this resource primarily to model for my students (and colleagues!) how to be good stewards of our earth. I would start small – focusing only on what I personally can control: a recycling bin next to the trash can, creating small chalkboards to use instead of poster paper, taking charge of a display case to communicate ways to be environmentally conscientious, and conserving the use of electricity in my classroom. I believe that these types of actions would foster conversations with my students about why I’m making these choices, which would then lead to a greater awareness amongst my students and colleagues. The attitude I would most hope to develop in those around me in the school (including myself) is that of gratitude and care. I take for granted all that I have that directly impacts the environment. I want to appreciate what I use and consider how I use it. I hope that by making these small but determined changes I would create pause in the young people whom I have been tasked to influence.

Implementing this resource supports the pillars of community building and skill building. We all share one environment. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we are one community on earth. Becoming responsible members of that environment forces us to work together to care for it and share strategies and information of the best choices that will protect it. This illustrates the pillar of community building. Secondly, in order to accomplish change and promote awareness, the pillar of skill building is incorporated into the use of this resource. To be good stewards of the earth, we must develop an array of life-style changes and choices that promote conservation. In addition, we must have the knowledge to empower others to want to make changes in their lives as well. Innovation and practicality are both required to do this effectively, especially when it’s much more convenient to use it up and toss it out. To make better choices, we must access aspects of the skill building pillar as we reflect, analyze, innovate, and communicate.

Peace as Youth Engagement and Advocacy




Knowledge Commons DC is a “free school for thinkers, doers, and tinkerers – taught anywhere, by anyone, for everyone.” Essentially, each season, this organization will coordinate and reach out to community members to create their own lesson plans and lead a class on any subject matter. From there, anyone in the community can take the class. Overall,  Knowledge Commons acts as an arbitrator to facilitate and set the dates for each of these classes.

In application to students, I would offer creating, teaching and leading a class through Knowledge Commons DC  to any student in the class as extra credit. Hopefully, students would channel their passions and new found academic knowledge into leading an empowering session on the issues they experience and care about. Examples could be, “ Education Reform: a Student’s Perspective on Improving our Schools” or even teaching about a civil rights movement. Overall, leading and creating a lesson plan will give each student the ability to be their own agent, become a teacher (disrupting the banking method of education) and incentive and focus on the importance of civic engagement.


This extracurricular event and project is most appropriate for either  high school or college level students in both a formal or informal atmospheres. This is due to the necessary educational development and skill that is crucial to developing and leading a lesson plan. In respect to the atmosphere, the subject matter and audience is dependent on the student’s interest and focus, and therefore, will alter depending on student’s chosen topic to lead a lesson on.

Objective and Goals

This project will give students the ability to focus on community building and engaging in multiple intelligences.  The student becomes the teacher in this project and will begin to actualize how their education can be applied to their own lives and experiences. As a result, various intelligences are employed as they are both developing and leading the project. Secondly, community building becomes an inherent goal in administering the project due to the nature of wanting to have an engaged audience and clear outcomes for each participant. Thus, each student is  driven to learn and develop an understanding of how to facilitate educational and empowering atmospheres that includes various types of individuals.

Louder than a Bomb


Over the summer I interned at Teach For America. In the corner of the office was a resource shelf with all kinds of books and videos for Teachers and Staff to check out. After walking by the shelf dozens of times I noticed one title in particular – “Louder Than A Bomb.”  I asked to borrow the film and didn’t know I’d picked up the best documentary I’ve seen in a while. Louder Than A Bomb is the world’s largest youth slam poetry contest held every year in Chicago. The “Louder Than A Bomb” documentary follows the stories of four Chicago-area school’s High School poetry teams as they figure out how to work together and ultimately share their stories during the competition. Poetry serves as an outlet for these students to capture their emotions and work through some very complex issues they face every day.

This documentary is an excellent resource for teachers to use in a high school English classroom. By introducing the concept of slam poetry and demonstrating how emotional and “real” these poems can be, the film sets an excellent example for a poetry / journaling piece of the curriculum. One could follow up a showing of the film by challenging students to write their own slam poetry and the class could host its own Louder Than A Bomb competition. For most students, the idea of sharing their own poetry with the rest of the class sounds terrifying. By giving students a chance to try and capture their emotions and develop their voice pushes students outside their comfort zone. For students that are struggling with stressful or traumatic events in their lives, a simple opportunity to share their story is the start to handling the difficulties they face.

Another facet of the poetry lesson can require students to craft a poem together. By sharing their stories and working as a group, students have the opportunity to work on cooperation and teamwork skills. For students that struggle to get started, teachers could provide a general topic or key words to get the creative process started. These starter concepts could focus around the core values of peace education, or one of the 7 pillars of peace building education

Of the core pillars of peace education, this documentary best relates to community building and reframing history non-violently. While I would not start the semester off by asking students to share personal poetry with the class, the exercise mentioned above is a great way for students to take that next step with their classmates and use this platform as a way to share a part of them that they may have never felt comfortable sharing before. The simple act of asking students to share their story may be just the kind of opportunity students have been waiting for. Also asking students to work as a team helps build cohesion as a group and develop ties amongst students in the class.

The more challenging pillar that Louder Than A Bomb integrates into the classroom is the ability to reframe personal history. By giving students an opportunity to share a chosen trauma or part of their up bringing, poetry can help students cope with their past and harness the lessons they’ve learned. By writing your own poetry students gain control over their story, which may be the first time they’ve felt control over an issue.

Lessons like this may go beyond the scope of a typical classroom session and the kind of support teachers can provide students. For students who don’t feel comfortable sharing their own stories, the teacher could provide instances in history that students could write a poem about that defines the event from a peaceful perspective. The stories and poems within this documentary are inspiring and challenging. Poetry is an underutilized medium for students today, and this type of lesson introduces the power of poetry in a modern way. But don’t take my word for it, just listen to their stories:

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: