DCPEACE: Cultivating Peace in D.C. Schools

DCPEACE is a program supported by the US Association for the UN University for Peace. The goal of DCPEACE is to teach conflict resolution and peace building in elementary classrooms through teachable moments and other classroom techniques. Their focus is on younger students to help them develop non-violent skills to combat violence at the earliest ages possible. The hope is that these non-violent skills will be developed before the tendencies towards violence. They host educator trainings, parent workshops, and hold Peace Clubs after school hours to further supplement their in-class programs.

Most effective, though, have been their Skills for Understanding Workshops and the Curriculum Enhancement they have been able to have teachers implement. In the workshops, they use theater, art, physical activities, and bring in outside facilitators to teach students effective skills to choose non-violent conflict resolution.

As one of the teachers in the video said, the goal of the program is to “give students the tools to solve their own problems.” Through these workshops and peace clubs, they have transformed student attitudes at Malcolm X Elementary School. Their confidence levels and self-esteem of students have increased, and they are focused on their own and others success. There has been a transition to a more community-based environment where students look out for one another.

Their website houses a program evaluation after the 2008-2009 school year at Malcolm X Elementary School. After the initial year of programming, 100% of teachers and administrators reported an increase in the students’ abilities to manage conflict. The program itself is reported to have decreased violence at the school by an average of 53%. This evaluation has great information in it, and I encourage you all to check it out. It can be found here on the main DCPEACE website.

There are not a lot of recent articles or blogs about what DCPEACE has been doing in the past year or so, as it was only a pilot program housed at Malcolm X. However, their results are promising and their data is accessible so the programs could be replicated or supported in a new setting. Their most recent updates are from the middle of 2010. I’m not sure why this program has not caught on in more high-risk DC schools. It has proven results and focuses on violence prevention and conflict resolution, which help classrooms and entire schools run more smoothly. Their evaluation does not state where funding comes from, but a lack of funding could be why the program is not expanding.

Yoga in Schools

The popularity of yoga practice has skyrocketed over the past few years. This added interest has made yoga much more widely accepted—no longer are hippies and new agers the only ones going to ashrams. As the popularity of yoga has expanded, new outlets of practice have emerged—from public museums to city jails to public schools.

The most interesting outcome of the new attention is the use of yoga and meditation in public schools. City public schools can be some of the most depressing and dangerous places to be in America. Be it decrepit buildings, harassment and bullying, physical fighting, or drugs, many of our schools do not create a peaceful learning environment for our children. How can some of our most struggling students be expected to succeed in an environment where they feel unsafe?

The use of yoga in public schools not only serves as exercise, it also alleviates stress, creates more peaceful interactions with others, decreases discipline problems, and can even lead to an increase in grades. Some schools go so far as offering yoga as an alternative to regular P.E. classes. Other programs are implemented in a regular classroom setting and involve more meditation and focus than physical yoga practice.

Yoga Ed is one of the frontrunners in the push for yoga in public schools. Their program started in the state of California but has become nationwide, offering instructors to teach yoga in schools and seminars to train current teachers on implementing classroom yoga. Yoga Ed even offers lists of resources on their website.  They have recommended music, children’s books, and have tips on practicing yoga in schools.

Yoga can be used in any school setting from Pre-K to 12th grade (or even into college). It seems just as effective in the lower grades (increased concentration, less fighting) as in middle and high schools (less stress). The two pillars most supported by yoga in schools are Skill Building and Community Building. Yoga is a resource that kids can carry with them throughout their lives to handle conflicts and daily problems in a non-violent way. It also creates a more cohesive, peaceful group dynamic in the school setting.

If a principal seems unwilling to set up a school-wide yoga program, individual teachers can take trainings or find meditation techniques online to use in their classrooms. Yoga is a very accessible (and often free) resource for teachers to build their classrooms into communities and alleviate discipline problems.

Also, for reference (and cuteness), here is a video of classroom yoga in Los Angeles by Sat Naam’s “Yoga in Schools” program.

Here are two other great resources for those who want to learn more about yoga in schools!