EdChange – Applying Transformative Action towards Schools, Communities, and Organizations

Content: I found Ed Change through the New Century College at George Mason University where Paul Gorski is the associate professor of Integrative Studies, as well as the founder of EdChange. Their initiative is to gather the skills and resources of experienced educators dedicated to the principles of “equity, diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice” (EdChange).

Context: EdChange and their collective staff have decades of training, exposure, and experience with  teaching, as well as facilitating a variety of workshops, seminars, consultations, etc., for P-university level Their aim is to move institutions, along with the people within them, towards an approach to education that incorporates diversity, equity, and multicultural narratives. Due to their systemic focus, coupled with their extensive experience, EdChange can be addressed to classrooms of any size or level, in a multitude of contexts, and depending on the expected results, can be presented formally or informally. The main purpose is to develop a common understanding of the personal needs and/or expectations of the organization and then developing relevant procedures, programs, and tools in accordance. By doing so, there is not only a level of flexibility, but the approach is personal and helps strengthen both sides through their collaboration and growth. 

Implementation- A major factor is the success of EdChange is building momentum and ensuring that the organizations will continue to strive for transformation even after they are done with the training. Many of these skills are developed through the workshops and training seminars to solidify not only their particular approach, but their ability to maintain a productive trajectory. While the different exercises are directed towards individual needs, there are a set of themes that EdChange considers their expertise. For example, Introductory and Framework Building is the initial step of introducing the conversation about topics such as diversity and multicultural education and subsequently building forward thinking approaches. Another focus is on the Curricular/ Pedagogical; teachers are aided in strengthening their lessons to include transformative practices and how to engage the classroom in dialogue revolving around broadening their perceptions on the subjects of diversity, equity, and multicultural education.There are several other main focuses which can be found here. The time that it takes to incorporate their mission/ vision and their specific approaches depends on which focus(es) they are addressing, to which audience, and what goal does the organization have in mind. Where a introductory class could take an afternoon with grade-school children, their leadership development program could be a week-long and dialogue intensive. Due to these drastic differences, the pedagogies may vary, but they are continually aimed at shifting the mindsets toward embracing and implementing the diverse, the equitable, and the multicultural.

Goal- EdChange’s ultimate goal is to give people, all people regardless of any identity, the opportunity to achieve and grow, while simultaneously feeling comfortable in themselves, a well as valued and empowered. Through their continual approach towards the three main principles, they seek to reshape the way schools, communities, society, etc approach and build dialogue around those topics. However, an aspect of discomfort and challenge is essential in transforming power dynamics. By addressing those feelings of vulnerability, dialogue can be constructed from deep within the individual and it presents them with a chance to develop themselves as a part of their environment. To continue affecting change, EdChange will work with anyone or any group at any stage in this process of building awareness and development as long as they are committed and honest to their goal of positive change. There are also three main side-projects that are developed through EdChange to help the individual build their interests: Multicultural Pavilion is a collection of resources for artists, educators, and activists; SoJust is one of the only documented histories of social justice and activism on the Internet, and JUSTICE – the People’s News which is an actively updated journal on human rights and social justice related topics. 

Audience- Two main parties that would contribute from the curriculum built by EdChange are local communities, especially those challenged by systemic pressures or identity issues, and educators within school systems that have more restrictive approaches towards personal identification. On the community level, it would give the participants a change to gain insight on themselves and the intrapersonal aspects, while simultaneously placing them in a situation that gives them insight on their surroundings. Through this, individual identity becomes strengthened, individuals have confidence in dialogue construction, and they are more equipped to challenge the factors that limit them. In a educational environment, especially in places such as standardized public systems, identity development is not a major concern nor is it something that is appropriately addressed. Through giving the students the ability to open up and explore their interests, it will breed appreciation and positive change, which potentially can alter larger systematic procedures such as the education pipeline. Additionally, it gives the educator the skills to develop curriculum that would address diversity, equity, and multicultural narratives; topics that are essential to the growth of peace. 

PeaceJam: Nobel Laureates Educating and Mentoring The Youth to Benefit the Worl

The PeaceJam program was created in 1996 in an attempt to teach peace to children through interactions and lessons provided by Nobel Laureates, as stated by their website. Their mission statement is “to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody” (PeaceJam).

Offered to kids between the ages of 5 and 25, PeaceJam is removed from the traditional classroom setting and utilizes a mix of work-shopping and lecture discussions. PeaceJam’s curriculum is equivalent to educational standards and it aligns with their One Billion Acts of Peace project which fosters peaceful developments globally, and their Global Call to Action campaign which targets the ten most important issues that impact human survival. In this, they build modern technological skills, anti-bullying strategies, concepts of global citizenship, and active community involvement. Through nurturing these leadership skills and character developments, they are enabling the individual to initiate positive growth within themselves and their communities.

The PeaceJam method has a three pronged approach: educate, inspire, and act. Their education program implements 4 different, specified curriculum based on age and 1 directed towards at-risk youth. For the 5-11 age group, PeaceJam Juniors, they learn about the lives, actions, and precedent of the 13 Nobel Laureates, while the 11-14 group, PeaceJam Leaders, addresses the same key people but with a focus on their teenage development. The 14-18 group, PeaceJam Ambassadors, study the fields of peace and violence, the multifaceted nature of identity, as well as learning and discussing with select Laureates. The PeaceJam Juvenile Justice Program builds civil responsibility and reconciliation while allowing them to utilize peace to alter the course of their lives. The final program, PeaceJam Scholars, is designed for college students to learn the skills of mentorship  while also addressing the international effort of the Laureates. The Inspiration branch is aimed towards the empowerment of youth through the impressive activity of the Nobel Laureates in their personal lives and within the program. The process of mentorship can be seen through their designed curriculum, their conferences, the ability to establish connected classrooms, and the Nobel Legacy Film series, which documents the life and work of a select Laureate each year. The last segment of action operates simultaneously with their One Billion Acts of Peace initiative and the 10 Global Calls to Action. Their 4 step program begins with understanding the 10 prominent issues that need to be addressed, then by providing past examples from both Laureates and PeaceJam members, they generate models for project ideas, next you can draft and create a project based on PeaceJam’s curriculum, and finally you can log your project so others can monitor your developments.

Materials and time needed:
The large amount of resources for these events is encompassed by the organizational structure and the man-power needed to gather students, accommodate the Laureates, secure a place to hold the event, as well as the transportation. Additionally, because these are large events, financial resources are also a factor, Aside from travel, the price is $175 for individuals such as educators and there are group rates for schools and NGOs. In order to implement this curriculum outside of the event, there are training programs that be taken online or in-person to be certified in the PeaceJam approach. To implement the PeaceJam method outside of the actual events, schools have begun PeaceJam clubs and have been setting up connected classrooms to allow for this exposure on a more concentrated scale. The most essential resource that can be gained is the curriculum that PeaceJam uses because it can be retrofitted to different classroom sizes and different age groups while simultaneously emphasizing the need for peace. The curriculum blends the approaches of education, inspiration, and action through the main topics of the main curriculum, Nobel Laureate chapters, and Global Call to Action projects. The time, as outlined in the Ambassador program curriculum, is a 15 week full semester of 45 hours of classroom meetings, outside research, and development projects.

Pedagogies used/ ways to implement this resource
The curriculum is taught through a combination of classroom education, self- developments and exploration, group exercises, and real-world examples. There are four major tenants within the curriculum: get inspired, educate yourself, take action, take it further. Within these, there is a focus on motivations, models, and wisdom of the Laureates, educational concepts and 21st century skills, community service, and extensions of the learning. As the student progresses through the education, these themes will be applied to the chapters that they cover. These chapters include exploring identity, defining privilege and power, human rights, and developments in both peace and violence. Teachers are encouraged to allow the students to have a voice and to interact, to create a safe space with the classroom, to facilitate both group and service-learning projects, and to educate the students on how to monitor their own personal growth.

So far, over 1 million youth have participated in PeaceJam events and hundreds of conferences with Nobel Laureates have been hosted. Additionally, over 2 million service projects have been constructed out of the PeaceJam program in accordance to their projected peace goals. There have been markers of growth in both academic skills and involvement in school and the community by the participants, demonstrating the long-lasting effects that PeaceJam offers. Additionally, there have been a decrease in violence in schools that have implements the PeaceJam model.

Due to the wide range of age groups that are addressed through the PeaceJam curriculum, that is a vast applicability in both schools and communities. I believe that community centers would be a great resource because the training and curriculum is accessible and the lessons can be addressed to children of all ages, while also allowing for adults in the community to gain training in facilitation and possible mentorship. The service- learning component is an added, mutual benefit because not only will they be more mindful in their approaches towards each other and towards peace, but their community will have the potential to thrive. Another audience that can thrive is school students, especially high school students. If a national chapter, or even head state chapter, is created to implement PeaceJam into either the standardized curriculum or the after school clubs, the effect will permeate into their studies and developments as individuals. High school students are the targeted audience because if they gain the proper training, they can act as facilitators to younger students in other grades, as well as active members in their communities.