Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots


One of my hero’s growing up was Dr. Jane Goodall.  Here  was a woman,  in the 1960’s, going alone into the jungles of Tanzania with a notebook and binoculars to study and save chimpanzees.    Though she met with extraordinary difficulties and  fierce adversaries,  she has managed to become a world renown authority on chimpanzees, conservation and the plight of endangered species world wide.  She is a  leading, passionate force for change  through her Jane Goodall Institute and now has “branched out” to schools and youth with her Roots and Shoots Foundation.

Dr. Jane Goodall, a UN Messenger of Peace, is the founder of the Roots and Shoots Program,  which aims to connect students to real life service learning projects of THEIR OWN choosing.   Dr. Jane began this project in 1991, when she felt that she was meeting so many children who lacked hope for the future.  She wanted to provide them with an opportunity to “think about the world’s problems and to roll up their sleeves and tackle them”.

The projects are curriculum based and encourage youth (elementary through college) to make positive changes in their own communities.  The projects have three components, which intertwine and depend upon one another.  These components are: the animal community, the human community and the environment.  The students are encouraged to identify problems and to take concrete actions.  In working together students gain a sense of empowerment that comes from helping others.

The service projects are looked upon as campaigns.   Students act as participants but also as leaders.  The web site gives examples of past campaigns but encourages students to create meaningful projects for their own communities.   The site has lesson plans to access,  Professional Development Opportunities, Career Explorations, Projects of the Month, Extension Activities,  and Family Activities.

The web site helps students and teachers plan, organize, coordinate and report/register their campaigns.  An important aspect of the projects is engaging the communities.  Dr. Jane believes that community centered conservation programs are critical to the survival of endangered species and conservation projects.

This is a fantastic, well designed and well supported,  global environmental humanitarian youth program that relies on the participants to “work for peace”.  Currently operating in  120 countries with 150,000 members, www.rootsandshoots.org  is an amazing example of a peaceable skill building and community building organization.  As we “Peacelearners” say…..check it out!

DCPS Goes Green: Peace through Sustainability

District of Columbia Public Schools is participating in the Be Water Wise DC project as part of its initiative to go GREEN.

“Be Water Wise DC was established by the nonprofit National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and includes lesson plans and activities such as measuring water flow rates and determining total water use in school buildings and grounds. The program is made possible through the support of companies such as lead sponsor HSBC Bank, as well as local agencies and nonprofit organizations committed to protecting the region’s natural resources.

Managing stormwater is a challenge for D.C. and the region. When it rains, water flows across streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Along the way, the rainwater picks up oil, trash and other contaminants, carrying them to streams and rivers including the Anacostia and Potomac and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.”

Check out this link for a detailed explanation of the project by Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_vVDhQfajvI

The video gives a very good summary and it’s impressive that they have so many schools participating and that it involves students of different ages.  I really like that students get  very hands-on with this project with the types of activities that they do in their schools and the local communities to help with water conservation in DC, and the concluding activity where they get to present their solutions to DC officials is definitely something students would look forward to.  This projects supports community building as it involves students and officials collaborating to create solutions for a problem that affects the DC area and also is a skill building activity because students are using critical thinking for problem solving, interpersonal skills by working together, and it’s an extension of the classroom space into the community.

For more information about Be Water Wise, please visit the National Environmental Education Foundation.

MindUP- A Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum


In these days of celebrity excesses and their often and very public demonstrations of questionable/objectionable behaviors;  it is refreshing to see that one celebrity is throwing her weight towards children’s success in school.

Goldie Hawn has started a foundation that focuses on the social and emotional learning of children.  She wanted to “bring children back to a sense of well-being”, and was distraught over the high dropout rates, violence in schools, the culture of bullying and was looking for a way to improve kid’s focus, energy and to help teachers to build classroom community.   Her program called MindUP has conducted research into “mindfulness” in the classroom, provides mentors for participating schools and has developed a book and curriculum to give teachers the tools to use in their classrooms.  These lessons fit into any schedule and require minimal prep time; they are geared towards grades 3 through 5.

I was most struck by the children and their reactions to MindUP.  As you can see in the video, the students really felt the benefits of mindfulness.  It helped them to calm down, to focus and to evaluate situations more clearly. They even taught the practices to their siblings and parents. Now that is true learning!

In learning “mindfulness” the children were learning about HOW they think.  They took “brain breaks” to breath and to relax, to quiet down their emotions and focus (3 or 4 times a day for two to five minutes).   In quieting down, the prefrontal cortex lights up and this is where executive functioning (creating, innovating, retaining information, and making connections) takes place.   Truly, this type of focusing is important for learning.

MindUP is currently being used in schools in the US, in Canada, Britain and Venezuela.  The research has shown so far that bullying and aggression has gone down on the playgrounds of participating schools.

There are four tenets of the MindUP program.  The first is “Let’s Get Focused” which helps the children learn about brain functionality.  The second is “Pay Attention to Our Senses” which prepares and teaches the students about mindful listening and exploring the senses.  The third is “It’s All About Attitude” helping the students choose optimism and lastly the fourth is “Taking Action Mindfully” which includes lessons on acting with gratitude.  (Recently, there have been several articles in the Washington Post on Happiness or the Pursuit of Happiness, which strongly link happiness with gratefulness).  This all sounds a bit preachy but I found it to be quite down to earth and doable.  The lessons can easily segue into language arts, science, social studies and math curriculums.

My favorite example was of a teacher who placed a huge water bottle full of water in front of her students and had them practice their “mindfulness” while she added drops of food coloring to the water.  She gradually worked this lesson into a lesson of the color chart and what happens to and how colors mix.  She let the children explain how watching the color disperses made them feel, or what it looked like to them.  It gave the students wonderful images to call upon during their daily mindfulness sessions.

The MindUP program addresses at least two pillars of peace.  Certainly, this methodology is develops Community Building by directing attention to the classroom as a place of safety and support and by going beyond the classroom to teach children concrete means of dealing with emotions and feelings.  Also, this program acts to Nurture our Emotional Intelligences by recognizing that everyone needs to take breaks during the day, to breath, to reflect, and to listen to his or her hearts.

Note:  The book MindUP Curriculum is for sale for $18.74 through Scholastic Books.  The website www.thehawnfoundation.org/mindup  outlines the process for becoming a MindUP school.



All teachers can appreciate that learning takes place through multiple intelligence and movement is fundamental source of expression for, most if not all, young students. Unfortunately, most curriculums do not incorporate physical motion as a means to the learning process. So when I came upon this site, I was excited to witness the interconnected themes of community building, cultural exploration, and self-discipline through focused energetic movement.

From the Dance4Peace website:

“Dance 4 Peace is a conflict resolution, civic education program that promotes empathy, understanding, mediation skills, anger management, emotional and civic engagement through dance in youth around the world. Through exercises and activities utilizing our bodies, music, emotions, experiences, and thoughts, we build emotional and social competencies for peace. “

Dance 4 Peace facilitators create curriculums that are specific to the grade and community by utilizing four key principles of social, emotional and civic competences in youth.

Dance 4 Emotional awareness

Dance 4 Active communication and dialogue

Dance 4 Diversity, cooperation and empathy

Dance 4 Anger management and mediation

“Dance 4 Peace began as Danza para la Convivencia en Bogotá, Colombia as part of Sara Potler’s Fulbright Scholarship project in 2007. In conjunction with Aulas en Paz (Peaceable Classrooms), a multi-component pedagogical project designed to promote social and civic competencies and conflict resolution among primary-school students, Dance 4 Peace was designed, implemented, and evaluated in public schools in the outskirts of Bogotá.”

Here is a sample of a project in Columbia:

“Today, the program is being implemented in Washington, D.C.; New York City; Baltimore; Colombia; the Philippines; and Nepal. We work through grassroots, local community and international-scale academic, public, and private partnerships to bring Dance 4 Peace programming to varying cultural contexts.”

Check out there work at Malcolm X public school in Washington DC:

For more info go to www.dance4peace.org



IndyKids is a progressive kid’s newspaper produced by volunteers including parents, students, teachers, journalists and community activists. Formed in 2005, IndyKids’ creators believe that everything is political and that no media source comes without bias; thus, they openly label their newspaper as progressive. IndyKids aims to present an alternative perspective that is typically not found in mainstream media or other kids’ news journals such as Time for Kids or Junior Scholastic because they are backed by corporate sponsors. IndyKids provides space for issues of marginalized people including kids, people of color, poor people, and immigrants whose voices may not generally be heard in conventional news and school textbooks. The organization does not believe in “talking down” to kids or restricting certain issues from being presented. Therefore, their stories range anywhere from youth activism, labor and immigrant rights and global warming, to war, the financial crisis and same-sex marriage. Aside from news, the paper also includes entertainment, recipes and puzzles.

In addition to learning about the issues themselves, IndyKids can be used in classrooms to teach media literacy. Teachers can give students articles on similar topics from various sources and ask them to compare the views of the publications. By doing this, students can pick out biases, form their own opinions based on facts or perspectives given, and most importantly, learn and practice being critical interpreters of information, instead of being passive recipients. This is a good exercise for teachers who may receive criticism for presenting progressive viewpoints, or generally for any teacher who aims to be objective and wants their students to be critical thinkers.

While the website states that the newspaper is aimed to engage kids in grades 4 to 7, I believe that the newspaper could be used from grades 3 to 8, and may be integrated best in an English/Language Arts or Social Studies class setting. What is also unique about this paper is that kids are encouraged to submit their own articles. Teachers or parents who use this newspaper in their classroom or home can make researching and submitting articles as part of a class project. On the IndyKids’ website, there are helpful resources and guides for teachers. For example, check out the November/December 2011 Issue and Teacher’s Guide – Issue 32.

IndyKids not only helps students to simply learn about current national and international events, but it can help students develop empathy, curiosity and passion, and may lead them to becoming selfless and conscientious. Another way teachers can promote peace and social justice in their classroom, school, and community, and further develop students’ research, writing, and analytical skills, is to assign students to produce their own community-based version of IndyKids focusing on local issues. After writing the articles and publishing a class newspaper, students can take an additional step and create an action plan to bring attention to a particular local issue and/or to fight a local injustice.

IndyKids supports the community building and skill building pillars of peace education. With the newspaper, students will learn about various issues, cultures and perspectives, and are encouraged to embrace the differences and similarities they may have with the people they read about. By allowing kids to write and submit their own articles, they are able to take ownership of their learning experience and see their work being acknowledged and read by a wider audience. With regard to skill building, students are empowered to actively participate in the larger peace and social justice movement locally and globally. Through reflection based activities, students’ interpersonal and intrapersonal skills will be strengthened. Furthermore, students’ analytical skills will be enhanced through media literacy lessons. Students will also learn organizing skills as they take action and show solidarity with a particular campaign, movement or group of people.

The 2011/2012 Peace Exchange and Other Peaceful Art Projects

The Create Peace Project is a San Francisco-based non-profit that uses art and creative expression to help create more peaceful schools and give students a creative outlet and teach them peacebuilding skills.

For the third year in a row, The Create Peace Project is engaging in “The Peace Exchange”, a program that allows students from the US and Canada to exchange messages of peace with students in Ghana, Colombia, and Nepal. Students write notes and draw pictures on special post cards, and The Create Peace Project delivers the messages to partner students around the world and returns with messages from those students. Download a flyer!

From the Create Peace Project website:

“The Peace Exchange is about connection. Connecting students to themselves, their creativity, their wisdom, and their heart. Connecting students to each other, in their classrooms, in their schools, and across continents as we bridge cultural, religious, and racial boundaries to inspire and enrich the lives of all participants.

The Peace Exchange gives students a platform from which to raise their voice for peace, acknowledge and honor each other, express themselves through their art and with words with the intention that the power of being peaceful and sharing ones self with another can create a ripple of kindness, love, and possibility felt by young people around the world.”

This project is tailored toward students age 8-18, and can be integrated into a formal school setting on a class-by-class basis or through a school-wide assembly. Resources for both options are available from The Create Peace Project. The exchange allows students to participate in something national and international and creates the space for local and international dialogue about peace.

For smaller groups or informal settings The Create Peace Project has other art options available:

Banners for Peace is a collaborative painting workshop that promotes team building and collaboration through a 10-week workshop that works on the creation of a unique, giant piece of art that is later displayed in a communal area. Beyond building art skills and learning to work as a team, participants have a chance to design something that can inspire peace and create a space for peace dialogue. Download a Flyer!

For a shorter-term project or a more diverse group of participants, check out the Collaborate and Create workshop, a one-day activity that allows participants to bring together objects and art supplies to create a collection of art work through collaborative creative games and activities. One great thing about this project is that it can be tailored to include as more or less emphasis on emotional expression and community building depending on the venue or event.

These resources help to build community and nurture emotional intelligence, allowing participants to express their feelings and ideas in a safe and welcoming space and explore the meanings of peace in a community setting.

Get your school involved! Or for more information contact: info@createpeaceproject.org

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.

Radical Math


It is a myth that peace and social justice issues can only be taught in a peace studies course. It is an even greater myth that there is no place for peace and social justice in mathematics, science, engineering or technology curricula. This post aims to bring attention to a resource for math and economics teachers of all levels who want their students to study issues of social and economic justice.  Radical Math is a site that contains more than 700 lesson plans, articles, books, charts, graphs, data sets, maps, and websites that will help lead students to not only understand issues of social, political and economic injustices through a mathematical framework, but also to learn how to develop just, realistic and mathematically-sound solutions.

Far too often students have complained about their required math courses and asked, “When will I ever use this?” Fusing social justice and math education allows students to be able to do more than memorize formulas and solve equations; they can use math as a tool to understand and change their society. Social Justice Math has two main purposes: 1) to use mathematics to teach and learn about social and economic justice and 2) to develop mathematical literacy and learn math through the study of social justice issues.  Radical Math resources can be utilized in upper elementary, middle, high school, and college classes. Such curriculum can also be integrated in community programs and classes geared to teach math, financial or computer literacy to citizens, immigrants or ESOL students.

Check out this guide created by Jonathan Osler:

A Guide for Integrating Issues of Social and Economic Justice in Mathematics Curriculum


One relevant (and very current) topic that can be introduced and discussed in a math or economics classroom is the Occupy Wall Street and other “occupy” demonstrations around the nation protesting economic and social inequalities, corporate greed and injustices, and corruption. For example, students can learn about the Gini coefficient and how that is calculated, evaluate the disparities in income and wealth distribution, and calculate corporate taxes and profits.

On the site, students and teachers can search by math topic, social justice issue or resource type. Below are all of the searchable topics and themes:

By Math Topic: Algebra,  Annual Percent Rate (APR), Area, Averages, Bar Graph, Basic Math Concepts, Budgeting Money, Budgets, Cartesian, Chance, Charts, Compound Interest, Correlation, Currency Conversion, Data, Data Analysis, Equivalent Fractions, Extrapolation, Geometry, Graphs, Graphing, Fractals, Fractions, Histograms, Interest, Least Common Denominators, Line Graphs, Mapping, Maps, Mean-Median-Mode, Measurement, Net Worth, Patterns, Percent Growth, Percents, Polar, Polls, Probability, Proportions, Rates, Ratios, Real Dollars, Numbers, Sampling, Scatter plots, Statistics, Survey, Symmetry, Tessellations.

By Social Justice Issue: Achievement Gaps, African Americans, Banking, Criminal Justice System, Death Penalty, Defense Budgets,  Economic Development, Ethnomathematics, Environment (pollution, hunger, food and water resources), Financial Literacy/Education (saving, managing debt, paying for college, credit cards, loans, taxes), Gentrification, Globalization, GLTBQ, Health Care, Higher Education, Homeownership, Housing, Hurricane Katrina, Immigration, Juvenile Justice, Latino/Hispanic, Minimum/Living Wage, Lottery, Military Recruitment, New York, Poverty, Poverty Line, Predatory Lending, Prisons, Public Education, Public Health, Racial Profiling, Racism, Single Mothers, Standardized Testing, Sweatshops, Taxes, Teaching, Unemployment, Voting, Wars, Wealth, Welfare, Women

By Resource Type: Article, Book, Chart, Curriculum, Film, Graph, Map, Syllabus, Table, Website

If you have any ideas or have created a lesson plan or projects on a math topic related to a social justice issue that you would like to share with others, you can e-mail info@radicalmath.org.

Happy United Nations Day!

Tomorrow marks United Nations Day, the anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, and a day that we take time to look at the work of this important organization and talk about its impact on the world.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in 2010: “UN Day is a day on which we resolve to do more. More to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity; more to meet the Millennium Development Goals.””

No matter what age group, or what subject matter, a discussion of one of the Millennium Development Goals, can be integrated into class today. Younger grades may enjoy learning about what education looks like in other parts of the world for kids like them. Science and health classes can tackle child health, maternal health and HIV/AIDS. Economics, government/civics classes, and other social sciences may find global partnership and gender equity fitting themes for discussion. Some groups may want to find ways to live more sustainable lives or help end hunger. Find out how close we are to reaching these goals and what you/your students can do to help. Use a video/interactive media resource to add a new twist to your lesson!

Check out tomorrow’s ongoing events at the UN and promotional materials on the live webcast.

See how the UN is participating in New York City Public Schools and find examples of resources to use with high school students.

For a holiday themed addition, transform Halloween into a time to give back: check out Trick or Treat for UNICEF to learn about the campaign and see how you can incorporate donation boxes into your school or neighborhood’s celebration.

For other education resources from the UN to incorporate tomorrow and year-round check out the cyber school bus!

These resources and activities designed to recognize this day and this institution can help to build community by creating common goals for the class to work for and think about through class-wide, school-wide, or community-wide projects. A look at the UN can also help students explore approaches to peace by recognizing the physical, structural, and cultural violence that exists in the world, and highlighting the global community’s efforts to eradicate that violence.