grab your nikon. create an ikon.

See what I did there?

Seriously though, grab your Nikon or whatever other photographic device you’ve got (I personally prefer my iPhone on the hispstamatic, ya dig?) and let your voice be…seen? You can do it all with a little help from IGVP, International Guild if Visual Peacemakers. They are a group of visual communicators who are dedicated to breaking down barriers and stereotypes in order to create peace. They strive to display the dignity and beauty of cultures all around the world. Once again, I have to accredit my find to Google.

So listen up photography teachers, cultural studies teachers, and just about any other teacher that can tie this into their curriculum. Regardless of your students’ ages, this one’s for you. Make it an in-class thing and just give your students a couple of cameras and a couple of minutes. Or make it a homework assignment and give em the weekend to do it on their own and show you what they came up with. What’s peace in their eyes?

It’s an easy way for students to think creatively, do something a little outside the box, and really involve the community. It’s an application of what they learn, how they feel, and what they think. It’s their perspective and dammit I like it! There’s no right or wrong answer.

Once you’ve got the pictures just create a gallery by creating an account on the IGVP website and post em for all to see! But that’s not all ladies and gents, you can spread the peace in other ways. After your students snap a few shots, they can talk about it by submitting entries for the guest blog! They can even start a discussion on the IGVP blog. Blogging’s all the hype.

This snazzy-so 21st century medium is a simple way to teach people to embrace and accept others. With so many colorful galleries to look through it’s easy to see beauty and common humanity through other’s eyes. Seeing pictures full of so many emotions and truths it’s hard not to empathize with other cultures. Not to mention it teaches students how to express themselves in ways other than in writing.

So, find a day to take that camera out when the sun rays are a blazing. Or not. Hey, it’s your artistic eye and your iconic representation of peace. I’m just the messenger. 

your hips don’t lie, but they do spread peace.

It’s true. I wouldn’t lie to you! “How?” You might ask. Through organizations like Dance 4 Peace. That’s right, Dance for peace. When this nonprofit popped up on my google search, I knew I had to share this absolute gem. Two of my passions combined into one?! Who doesn’t love a good twofer? And once I found out it all got started in my hometown of Bogotá, Colombia it suddenly became a threefer and just too good to pass up.

Dance 4 Peace was started by life-long dancer Sara Potler. It’s a community education program that promotes mediation skills, anger management, conflict resolution, emotional and civic engagement through dance. They  give youth social and emotional competencies for peace using music, movement, and experiences. With programs in Baltimore, DC, New York, Colombia, Nepal, and Philippines it’s a fast growing movement.

Their lessons are easy to incorporate them into any school day through physical education, music, dance, social studies, art, theater, or global studies. It could even be used as an after school activity. With so many curriculum themes (all found on their website) students are not only motivated to work out, but also develop communication, social and emotional skills that can be applied to their lives in order to promote peace. Empathy, understanding, respect, cooperation, and acceptance are all skills emphasized and developed through Dance 4 Peace. The best part? Dance doesn’t discriminate, so youth of all ages and backgrounds can partake in all the knee-bending and hip-shaking.

A lesson from Dance 4 Peace can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 2 hours depending on what the educator wants. So, whether it’s a simple ice breaker, a bonding activity, or an entire lesson plan this program is the perfect one-size-fits-all for educators everywhere. Just have everyone grab their most comfortable kicks, open up their minds and hearts, turn up the music, and bend those knees.

In my opinion though, I think the most important thing to take away from all this is that just like Sara Potler, you can use your passions and talents to make a statement and create social change. Yes, you! You can make a difference doing what you love. So get creative, take a risk, and make your ideal twofer a reality. My motto for any such twofer: you had me at two.