Delicious, Nutritious Peace: Building Peace through Food

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I don’t know about you, but I love food. Most people relish the opportunity to satiate hunger, to dine with friends, to share a holiday meal with family. A resource I believe can be incredibly effective in building peace is commonplace. In the United States of America, most of us are fortunate to have this resource waiting in our cabinet at home or in the cafeteria at school. Food, in abundance for the majority of this nation’s citizens, can be a driving force in building peace within communities.

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” – James Beard

Food can be very informative about a region and a culture. In my online research into building peace through discussing food, I happened upon a lesson plan titled “What Do People Around the World Eat?” created by Learning to Give. This 45 minute lesson plan is designed for high school students and can be easily employed in history, nutrition, or economics classes. If I was facilitating this lesson in a history or nutrition class, I would add several components.

This lesson plan first involves an activity in which students stand by a poster with a continent’s name written on it, guessing which one has the healthiest food and eating habits. Next, a slide show “What the World Eats” created by Time will be presented. Pairs will discuss why people from around the world eat such diverse food in different quantities. A volunteer will take notes on the poster about students’ observations. Discussion will then shift to the differences in observations across continents.

If this was my own lesson plan, I’d add my component after the section described above. I would add discussion about the cultures of the students. Split into 5 small groups, students would discuss traditional foods and eating norms in their culture. They can also speak more about their family and their eating style. Do they eat out all the time? Do they share family meals often? Experiences with foods from other cultures can also be brought up. As they discussed, each group would prepare a simple dish from one continent being presented. Students will grow in community with each other and understanding of the culture, as well as get several snacks to enjoy while they enter into the next round of discussion. This would add approximately 45 minutes. The dishes will be chosen based on ease, short cooking time, and appeal. Food preparation is not be feasible in all situations, but a discussion of the students’ cultural experiences with food should be included.

According to the lesson plan, after this portion, discussion will shift again to comparison of attributes of the foods (cost per week per person, nutritional value, quantity per person, variety of food groups). The class will split into groups to discuss these attributes, soon presenting a class with a summary of their observation. If computers are available, a summary with research should be expected.

This lesson plan ends with two excellent questions: “How do these differences show that there is an injustice in food availability?  Whose responsibility is it to take action to address the injustice of food availability?” After a brief discussion of this, I’d expect students to write an essay or reflection about their thoughts on the matter.

This lesson plan reflects many of the pillars of peace education, particularly community building, engaging multiple intelligences, and skill building. Students build community with each other, gain understanding of one another’s cultures, and are introduced to the outside world’s experiences with food. They have the opportunity to discuss, to view a presentation, to walk around the class, to create food—engaging verbal, visual, and kinesthetic learners. Finally, this helps develop skills in analysis, comparison, and cooking.

This lesson plan would be great for high school teachers, particularly those that lead history or nutrition classes. This can be adapted for economics classes, for younger students, or for college-level courses. Informally, I could see this project fitting very well in Saturday community projects, with Girl and Boy Scout troops, in youth groups at churches, and in community enrichment classes.

For more information about building peace through making food, The PeaceMeal Project is a good place to start.

Roots Of Empathy – The Education of the Heart

Ken Robinson in a very charismatic talk at the Dalai Lama center for Peace+Education in 2011 claims education should be not just the education of the mind, but the education of the heart and I wholeheartedly agree. Particularly in relation to Peace Education and nurturing a civil society of responsible and caring citizens, the education of the heart and how to “feel” is just as important. We focus a lot of our educational energy on lecturing on the outside world and I believe Peace Education is the necessary inverse – it invites students to turn their gaze and perspective inward. They key to this inverse is the connection between humans and the power of empathy. In conflict we shut empathy off but empathy holds the power to solve conflict! There are numerous scientific studies that show the student’s early environment plays a large role in who they become as they grow, so this has become common knowledge. Empathy and nurturing emotional intelligence is one of the seven pillars of Peace Education and can be cultivated and groomed at different levels in the classroom. This was absent and not seen as important in my early childhood education, but it was in the household and this can vary from student to student. It is the role and duty of Peace Educators to foster a sense of empathy or increased emotional intelligence in our students and be part of the solution.

Sir Ken Robinson – Educating the Heart and Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1A4OGiVK30 (more specifically the last 10 mintues or so)

“Roots of Empathy” is a unique and award winning yearlong charitable program that is actively part of the solution in a desensitized and emotionally out of touch society. It takes place in a Elementary through Middle schools and has programs available globally. It has been researched and has been proven to create significant change in participating schools. The program pillars are specific and include Emotional Literacy, Neuroscience, Temperament, Male Nurturance, Inclusion, Infant Safety, Perspective Taking, Prevention of Teen Pregnancy, Attachment/Attunement, Participatory Democracy, Infant Development, and Violence Prevention. Instead of targeting violence, bullying, and aggressive behavior directly the program takes a holistic approach and engages all the students in the classroom.“Roots of Empathy” focuses on the relationship between parent and child and gives students the opportunity to observe an infant and its development. This program is at its core a reflective practice, because the students are actively identifying problems with their child and solving them, which effects the way they solve their own problems and manage their own relationships. The program is very personal and children very quickly learn through this program their own temperament traits and the situations that may spike or increase the chances for conflict.

Roots Of Empathy

– A more in depth video

There is a healthy amount of useful information and great resources on the site as well as contact information if you or a school around you is interested in running the program. Many of the activities like asking the students to depict creatively episodes when they felt afraid or helpless and using the community to help create an atmosphere of social responsibility are activities that can be incorporated in any classroom at any level.

http://www.rootsofempathy.org/

Humans uniquely possess the ability to empathize with others, including non-humans. We must embrace this distinct trait and connect students with themselves and their feelings, so they can go on and empathize with friends, family, and people on the opposite side of the globe. If we are to create a future culture of peace, we must start with the future, the children and the power of empathy can go a long way.

The Potomac Conservancy

POSTED ON BEHALF OF KATIE KASSOF

The Potomac Conservancy is a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Potomac watershed area, both land and water.  One of their current activities is creating an urban tree canopy.  To do this, they are working on planting more trees in Fredrick County, Md and have enlisted the help of K-12 students from the local area to plant over 19 acres of trees.  More information can be found on their website: http://www.potomac.org/site/urban-tree-canopy/.

I feel this is an activity that anyone, K-12, can participate in and get something out of.  Of course different educational goals would be set depending on the age of the students.  It could be organized through a school with corresponding curriculum about the importance of trees, erosion control, how watersheds work, etc.  It could also be organized informally with a community group like scouts or church groups where the participants will be learning more about organizing activities for community benefit and maybe some environmental education about the types of trees being planted.

Personally, I would like to have an older group of students incorporate this into a section focusing on land degradation and restoration processes.  This can include run-off, man-made erosion, lack of habitat, etc.  A section like this in an environmental science class would open the door for this community service activity to become a real learning opportunity about something larger than just planting trees.  Perhaps the students can do this section before going to the activity and host an informal class or presentation at the planting for the other participants.

The two main pillars of peace education this would satisfy are community building and exploring approaches to peace. Additionally, multiple intelligences are addressed with this combination of classroom and experiential education

Mattie Stepanek

POSTED ON BEHALF OF LEAH THOMPSON

I first learned about Mattie Stepanek from his interview on the Oprah show in 2001.  I was struck by his childlike innocence and inquisitiveness, and impressed by his sense of maturity and worldly wisdom.  Mattie Stepanek appeared on the Oprah show at age 11.  He suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a disease that confined him to a wheelchair and tethered him to an oxygen tank.  His message was about hope and peace.  Mattie was a philosopher, a poet, and a peacemaker.  He has over 8 published books of poetry, several of which are New York Times Best Sellers.  Mattie’s appearance on the Oprah show was commemorated as one of the top 25 moments in Oprah Show history.  Click on the link below to watch a clip of the Oprah Show interview where Mattie talks about his poetry or heartsongs.  Mattie says that everyone has a heartsong and “no matter what it is, it still sings the same beautiful message of peace and love. People are fighting over how our heartsongs are different. But they don’t need to be the same.  That’s the beauty. We are a mosaic of gifts. Each of us has our inner beauty no matter how we look.”

Watch Oprah’s reflection on her meeting with Mattie:

http://www.oprah.com/own-tv-guide-magazines-top-25-best-oprah-show-moments/Moment-24-Meeting-Mattie-Stepanek-Video

Back in 2004, Oprah introduced the world to an extraordinary little boy—poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek. The 11-year-old, who was wise beyond his years, became an Oprah Show regular and one of Oprah’s favorite guests. Watch as Oprah reflects on their first meeting.

I encourage you to explore the Mattie Stepanek website at:

http://www.mattieonline.com

On this website you will find Mattie’s full biography, information about programs and resources, and a description of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation.  The mission of the Foundation is “to further Mattie’s message of hope and peace by providing access to the message, promoting understanding of the message, and motivating people to action in sharing the message. Our vision is to offer educational and recreational programs, projects, activities, and resources that encourage peacemaking as a deliberate choice for individuals and for our world. We celebrate Mattie’s belief that “We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts, to nurture, to offer, to accept.” Like Mattie, we believe that “Peace is for all people!” and that “Peace is possible!”

Resources from this website can be used for students of all ages, and in a variety of settings.   A possible lesson for middle or high school students would incorporate reading one of Mattie’s books of Heartsongs during a language arts, reading, or poetry unit.  Students could read a poem by Mattie and then use this poem as a model or format to help them in writing their own poem.

The website below provides a specific lesson plan based on Mattie’s poems for a 4th, 5th, or 6th grade level literature lesson:

http://teachers.net/lessons/posts/3248.html

Or perhaps you are looking for a field trip idea?  The citizens of Rockville, Maryland created a Mattie Peace Garden and Park in 2008, shortly after Mattie passed away.  According to the website the park has a life-size bronze statue of Mattie and his service dog surrounded by chess tables.  The Peace Garden was created based on visual imagery and quotes from Mattie’s final book, Just Peace.  At the park visitors can listen to Mattie’s voice from a sound post that plays excerpts from his poetry, peace speeches, and songs.

Additional information about the park amenities and location can be found here:

http://www.mattieonline.com/?page_id=1195

Engaging students with Mattie’s life story and his books of poetry will be an empowering lesson.  Mattie’s biography is an inspiring chronicle of a young person who rose above all sorts of barriers and challenges, with a courageous and inspiring spirit.  Amid adversity, Mattie spoke a message of peace, love, and acceptance of all.  I think a lesson based on Mattie’s poetry would allow students the opportunity to tap into their heartsongs (as Mattie calls them) to realize their message and their purpose.  This will encourage students to become self aware, by providing an existing example of a young peacemaker, his message, and his goal for a more peaceful world.

This resource most supports the pillars of Nurturing Emotional Intelligence and Exploring Approaches to Peace.  By exploring Mattie’s poetry, or heartsongs, students will reflect and be sensitive to their emotions, and perhaps discover a new message or goal for themselves.  By sharing their heartsongs with their classmates they will build community and empathize with one another.  Poetry and written expression is also a way to explore a new approach to peace.  Mattie often talks about how he didn’t intend to sit down and write poems, but instead he just wanted to capture on paper the song inside his heart.  Peace through poetry is a powerful force that captures the true essence of a person’s emotional journey during his/her pursuit of peace. Mattie lived a remarkable and inspiring life, and left behind a legacy of hope and peace.  In closing, I will leave you with Mattie’s words…

Follow your heartsong.
Hope is real.
Peace is possible.
Life is worthy.
Believe, and celebrate!

Peace Learner Commitments

The above podcast was recorded on Wednesday, November 14th 2012 during the Peace Pedagogy (EDU-596) course I facilitate each year at American University.  As a final assignment for the class I asked each student to develop what I called a “Peace Learner Commitment.”  A Peace Learner Commitment is:

“…a pledge to yourself, and shared with our community, to achieve a goal that seeks to build and foster peaceable learning environments.  This environment can be built in the classroom, your community, among your peers, with your family, in the work place, or for yourself.  The choice is yours.

“The key is for an element of this course that resonated with you – skill, content, activity, attitude, technique, perspective, etc. – to bear fruit outside of the (tiny) classroom we shared this semester.”

In the podcast each student shares what their commitment is.  And listening to this podcast, I can honestly say that it has been a privilege spending an entire semester with this outstanding, kind, and inspirational group of learners. The 14 students all came to the course for different reasons, with different needs, and from different professional and academic backgrounds.  Given the diversity of the learning goals and needs, as the professor for the course I really had to give deep thought to what kinds of assignments were going to actually be useful to the class.

Stand Up and Speak Out

POSTED ON BEHALF OF MARIA SCHNEIDER

After reviewing my own reflections for our Peace Learner Agreements I decided that this program anti-discrimination and bullying program known as Stand Up Speak Out (SUSOSH) that I was involved with is something that I am proud of. It deserves recognition, and I believe that it should be implemented in other schools in communities across the country. It is relevant to peace education because of the long-term goals related to the seven pillars: community building, exploring approaches to peace, re-framing history, and transforming conflict non-violently, and lastly building life skills.

[Taken from the Minneapolis South High School website:] http://south.mpls.k12.mn.us/activities_s-z Stand Up Speak Out South High (SUSOSH) is a student driven peer education event at South High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Led by a core group of students on the SUSOSH Leadership Committee and staff advisors, SUSOSH trains over one hundred students in the art of peer education regarding homophobia, sexism, racism, and disability awareness. For two days, these peer leaders facilitate workshops for the entire student body of South High School in hopes of raising awareness and igniting change in the community. SUSOSH participants are committed to social justice at an unprecedented level at South High School.

SUSOSH, started as an initiative by the Gay Straight Alliance, Student Government, National Honor Society and Corinth Matera a dedicated, and well-respected teacher at South High. Based on student and teachers noticing an increase in vulgar and offensive language being used in the hallways of Minneapolis South High the conversation began of how we could transform our school environment to be more accepting and respectful of all people.

I think that this initiative can be implemented in many different learning environments but it is best done in middle and high schools where students and teachers can work together to create a comprehensive and effective social justice action plan to engage students of various backgrounds and grade levels. That way it is structured and can lead the way for transformational change and peace throughout an entire school or institution, not simply in one class or one group of students. As far as how to incorporate this into a class, I think that the need has to be there and a drive from students as well a support from faculty and staff members. Otherwise, there won’t be positive response from students if they don’t see positive leadership from their peers.

One year later, after local teen suicides related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender bullying, South High was recognized for its anti-bullying measures related to SUSOSH. http://www.shsoutherner.net/news/2010/11/09/south-students-respond-to-recent-suicides/

After exploring this concept of Standing Up and Speaking Out I discovered a similar program on the edutopia site http://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-justice-lessons-activities-resources-rebecca-alber aimed at teachers to help better develop social and emotional learning through social justice lesson plans and resources.

How can this program be implemented in other schools? Who is responsible for doing this? How can we spread the word?

TeachUNICEF

POSTED ON BEHALF OF KELLY RYAN

One of the challenges for any teacher, practitioner, and parent is trying to find the best way to teach children about those difficult, scary, and challenging topics that are a part of our world. TeachUNICEF is rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and provides unique topic and age appropriate activities and lesson plans to help teach children about human rights, armed conflict, human trafficking, and other important topics. Moreover, TeachUNICEF resources are aimed at students in a variety of contexts and locations.

TeachUNICEF is a portfolio of free global education resources. Resources cover grades PK-12, are interdisciplinary (social studies, science, math, English/language arts, foreign/world languages), and align with standards. The lesson plans, stories, and multimedia cover topics ranging from the Millennium Development Goals to Water and Sanitation.

Our mission is to support and create well-informed global citizens who understand interconnectedness, respect and value diversity, have the ability to challenge injustice and inequities and take action in personally meaningful ways. We hope that in providing engaging and academically rich materials that offer multiple voices, we can encourage the exploration of critical global issues while presenting opportunities to take action.”-TeachUNICEF

The lesson plans provided by TeachUNICEF are divided by topic/grade level and by lesson plan, readings, videos, and audio. A Child Rights lesson plan for PK-2nd grade students includes an entire coloring book that encourages students to learn what rights are and why they are given to children. A 9-12th grade lesson plan on gender equality provides students with stories of children from around the world and asks them to chart the trend of girls in primary education programs in the last decade.

The TeachUNICEF map shows viewers how the program is used around the globe. Pins are drawn on a world map to indicate how and where TeachUNICEF implimented. If you click on a pin the website will play a video or direct you to a lesson plan unique to the particular geographic area. This makes the project not only helpful to teach in different contexts around the globe, but it also helps teachers teach their students about issues, challenges, and solutions in schools far from their own classrooms. Similarly, the “Field Note” section allows teacher, parents, and youth to share their experiences and how they are implementing TeachUNICEF.

One of my favorite sections is the “Take Action” page. This section allows the viewer to participate in an active way to accomplish a global goal. Supported by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, many opportunities are given for students, teachers, or anyone else to participate in advocacy, volunteering, raising funds for projects, and more. This, coupled with the free lesson plans, provides an active learning resource for TeachUNICEF participants.

This program hits on many of the pillars of peace education. However, I think it most directly relates to exploring approaches to peace and skill building. The TeachUNICEF lesson plans address many issues affecting people, especially children, all around the world. As previously mentioned, the lesson plans talk about human trafficking, armed conflict, gender inequality, etc. Many of the lesson plans use narratives of children in conflict or in poverty to show what life is like in their environment. Skill building is also an important part of TeachUNICEF through the “Take Action” opportunities. My favorite is the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program which not only raises funds for UNICEF but also raises awareness for its programs.

TeachUNICEF is a wonderful and free resource for all teachers, parents, practitioners, and students. It is grounded in the CRC and uses activity based, reading, visual, and audio techniques to educate students on tough issues. Most importantly, it gives students ways in which they can advocate for peace through action!

Links:

TeachUNICEF: http://teachunicef.org/

CRC: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm