Art + Sports = Peace Education!

In order to meet children where they are developmentally and intellectually, the Arts Olympiad program combines art, sports, and technology in a multi-level program to teach children aged eight to 12 years about peace. The program, implemented by the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), is a worldwide initiative that engages children in peace-building on local (classroom), national, regional, and global levels, teaching them cooperation, positive identity formation, empathy, creativity, leadership, and multiculturalism (see more information here).

This specific program is intended be utilized by elementary school teachers (and possibly after-school childcare providers and other informal educators), and adaptations of it could be effective for children from early elementary school through middle school. By employing media that are universally accessible – visual art and sports – this program is both highly inclusive and successful at connecting children from vastly different regions and cultures. At the same time, the elements of collaboration and cooperation built into the program (for example, classes work together to select which artworks will be submitted to the next level of the competition) teach children tolerance and community.

Participation in the Arts Olympiad could be easily implemented in classrooms as well as in informal settings. Because the only materials required are art supplies (crayons, markers, paper, pencils), this project needs virtually no preparation. Ninety minutes should be plenty of time for children to draw their favorite sport, share their artworks, and decide together which pieces will be entered to the next level of the competition. Teachers should supplement the project with a discussion of sports in an international context, such as exploring the Olympic Games or the World Cup. They could even go one step further and use sports as a metaphor to talk to young students about conflict, collaboration, and healthy behaviors.

The Arts Olympiad supports learning about cooperation, tolerance, identity, empathy, creativity, and leadership throughout the four levels of the competition, as children are increasingly exposed to their larger local, national, regional, and global communities. It teaches multiculturalism and international relations in a way young children can understand, and exposes them to the understanding that, though people may have many differences, they also have much in common.

(By Emily Ludwin Miller, emillerk@gmu.edu)

From Hostility to Hospitality

William Ury’s TED talk from October 2010 is an excellent tool for introducing new learners to the field of conflict transformation. The simplicity of Ury’s language, his use of stories and visuals, and the brevity of the lecture make this video appropriate for a broad audience, and it would be best suited for students in high school or older, in both formal and informal settings. The lecture is a wonderful way to introduce the field of conflict/peace studies to students because it incorporates key concepts such as creativity, interrelatedness, perspective, narrative, and humanization through specific examples that make these ideas easy to understand for novices.

Ury’s lecture would be a good way to begin a course or training session (such as training students and/or adults in mediation or facilitation), and should be followed with small-group discussion in order to draw out and reinforce themes. As the screening and discussion could be conducted in as little as 35 minutes, this program could serve as an “icebreaker,” allowing participants to get to know one another informally (through discussion) but also setting the scene by introducing key concepts, and inspiring the group with both emotional and rational appeals.

This program incorporates aspects of multiculturalism, conflict resolution, international relations, and even human rights. Its implementation would ideally develop a basic understanding of important themes in conflict transformation, as well as a positive attitude and optimism toward the creation of peace. Ury’s talk also inspires creativity, analysis, and reflection.

(By Emily Ludwin Miller, emillerk@gmu.edu)