Delicious, Nutritious Peace: Building Peace through Food


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.

Peace as Youth Engagement and Advocacy




Knowledge Commons DC is a “free school for thinkers, doers, and tinkerers – taught anywhere, by anyone, for everyone.” Essentially, each season, this organization will coordinate and reach out to community members to create their own lesson plans and lead a class on any subject matter. From there, anyone in the community can take the class. Overall,  Knowledge Commons acts as an arbitrator to facilitate and set the dates for each of these classes.

In application to students, I would offer creating, teaching and leading a class through Knowledge Commons DC  to any student in the class as extra credit. Hopefully, students would channel their passions and new found academic knowledge into leading an empowering session on the issues they experience and care about. Examples could be, “ Education Reform: a Student’s Perspective on Improving our Schools” or even teaching about a civil rights movement. Overall, leading and creating a lesson plan will give each student the ability to be their own agent, become a teacher (disrupting the banking method of education) and incentive and focus on the importance of civic engagement.


This extracurricular event and project is most appropriate for either  high school or college level students in both a formal or informal atmospheres. This is due to the necessary educational development and skill that is crucial to developing and leading a lesson plan. In respect to the atmosphere, the subject matter and audience is dependent on the student’s interest and focus, and therefore, will alter depending on student’s chosen topic to lead a lesson on.

Objective and Goals

This project will give students the ability to focus on community building and engaging in multiple intelligences.  The student becomes the teacher in this project and will begin to actualize how their education can be applied to their own lives and experiences. As a result, various intelligences are employed as they are both developing and leading the project. Secondly, community building becomes an inherent goal in administering the project due to the nature of wanting to have an engaged audience and clear outcomes for each participant. Thus, each student is  driven to learn and develop an understanding of how to facilitate educational and empowering atmospheres that includes various types of individuals.

The Faces of the Library of Congress


The Library of Congress is an institution of which many are aware, but I suspect few people stop to consider the physical buildings which house our many ideas on democracy and the world.  The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress was built in the last decade of the nineteenth century and serves as the site of the elegantly formal reading room.  The architecture of the building is fascinating, as there are scenes from antiquity to American history carved around the building.

All 33 Ethnological Heads before Installation:

Individual Heads from

Caffin, Charles Henry, Handbook of the Library of Congress. Boston:  Curtis & Cameron, 1906: p. 12-18, GoogleBooks –

For the purposes of peace pedagogy, we need only look to arches around the lower level windows in the building.  Atop each arch, visitors can see 33 faces staring back at them.  These “ethnological heads” were included in the architecture at a time when many European countries were becoming global imperial powers and just before the onset of the Spanish-American War.  In just a few years, the scientific racism of eugenics would gain international popularity as institutions of higher education sought to classify the differing peoples across the globe.

This is a difficult topic that is often ignored or faintly touched upon in secondary education.  It is difficult to bring up topics of race in many classrooms, because there is an inherent conversation of class, power, and privilege.  For varying reasons, many students are afraid to describe their perceptions of the world around them today.

This resource can be used in many levels of education, depending on how far a facilitator wishes to go.  My vision is to use it in a secondary setting, allowing students to discuss differing interpretations of the presence of these heads before having them evaluate the presence of them as positive, negative, or other.

First, I would have students analyze the picture of all the faces without much introductory context.  Students should be encouraged to note the similarities and differences between the faces, then asked to guess the purpose of these heads and where they might be located.

Next, each students should take an individual face and research the title to it, which is the generic race to which the head is supposed to belong.  This can take as much time as you like and can culminate in whatever type of sharing fits your group of students.

After students have an understanding that the ethnological heads represent 33 distinct races scientist once believed existed on the planet, they should be asked to judge if these faces should be included on the Library of Congress or not.

Their opinions will more than likely fall into two categories.  First, the inclusion of such a diverse population on the exterior of the building is a positive good for it recognizes the contributions of the entire human race to the wealth of knowledge included in the Library of Congress.  At the other end of the spectrum is the idea that such ethnological representations and heads indicate a scientific racism that focuses on the differences between people in an attempt to create a hierarchy to protect global social stratification.

Questions to consider asking students of opinions anywhere on the spectrum may include:

  • What might it mean that the faces are all the same size?
  • Does it matter that European countries were busy taking over other lands?
  • What might these heads represent in the 1890s, while much of the nation, including Washington, DC was segregated?
  • Are these accurate representations of these races, or exaggerated caricatures?

As the purpose of Social Studies curriculum across the nation is to gain a better understanding of why we as societies (local to global) are the way we are, these particular questions and themes could fit anywhere in a high school curriculum.  World History focuses on the contributions of many cultures represented by these sculptures.  The Thomas Jefferson building itself is a text to be read in American History – and especially in a DC History class.  They are much too rich a source to be ignored.

There is no wrong way to read this architecture.  Quite literally, they are etched in stone for everyone to make of them what they will.  For students, they may represent a safe venue to explore topics of race and diversity within their own communities.  To ask them if the presence of ethnological heads on a building of national significance is appropriate or not allows students to consider these questions on both a national and international scale as well

As with many of the sources I have presented this course, I believe this resource helps with reframing history and engaging multiple intelligences.

A close look at the faces reveals a fairly comprehensive ancestry of our global society.  Included in this is several ethnicities categorized as “Middle Eastern” by today’s standards.  I believe it is important to point out, in the presence of much ignorance and misguided opinions in today’s political world, that such peoples have been contributing to world cultures since recorded history began.  These contributions were recognized by scholars across the world for centuries before our current one.  It seems much ignorance and racism in the world today comes from a cultural amnesia in the wake of modern political events.

The visual aspect of analyzing the heads allows for engaging students with Gardner’s spatial intelligence.  Naturalist students may focus on the idea of how the built environment of these heads relates to the world outside the library, while interpersonal students may interpret how this resource either encourages or discourages interaction within a global society.

The fact that there is not completely right or wrong way to read this architectural feature may foster an acceptance of multiple perspectives and help students understand conflicting views are acceptable both between people and within themselves.  This would help nurture emotional intelligence in all students as well.

Several other pillars of peace education could be worked into a discussion of the Library of Congress Ethnological Heads, but I feel to discuss them would be in excess in a blog post.  When I found out about them, my mind ran wild trying to figure out how to bring such a fascinating resource into my classroom.  This is one idea I had, but I am more than open to further ideas.  This is just too good a source for a history teacher with an academic interest in race to pass up!

The Potomac Conservancy


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:

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

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.

T.I. Meets Alexander Hamilton


Content and Context

Music is a versatile tool. In my classroom, there is almost always some sort of music, either from the radio, students singing, or as a part of the lesson plan. I often offer little explanation for why the songs are played, but more often than not, they are on topic. One of my favorite albums for such a topic is nothing but folk music campaign songs for every president. Music is best used when it is the focus of the lesson.

Many of my most effective lessons involve musical analysis. A friend of mine gave me a lesson plan where students analyze rap lyrics to determine humanist beliefs of the Renaissance in the lyrics. Apparently, Nas is a humanist. I also have a lesson where students analyze protest songs of the 1960s and 1970s before composing and performing their own.

For a resource I propose two music videos. The first is rapper T.I. singing “No Matter What.” The song discusses all that he has overcome, with the refrain, “Still I stand, no matter what.” This song is not unique in its message of perseverance and can absolutely be substituted by any other song you may know of with the same message.




The second video is “Alexander Hamilton” by Lin Manuel Miranda. Among history nerds such as myself, this is quite the video. The composer is currently composing a concept album on the life of Alexander Hamilton – someone who he sees as an 18th Century Tupac. Alexander Hamilton was born in poverty and lived quite the tumultuous life before finally being assassinated by Aaron Burr.



I would use these two sources in a high school history, English, or humanities class. Students should be mature enough to understand and appropriately discuss not only the themes and the lyrics themselves. The lesson or activity should be about 45 minutes long.

Activity, Objectives, and Goals

1) Students should watch the video for “No Matter What” and discuss the general message of the song. You may wish to do a brief bit of research on the biography of Atlanta rapper T.I. before facilitating this discussion. Some question prompts might be:

– What is the message to the chorus of the song?
– What are some issues T.I. has overcome or still struggles with today?
– How do you think he has been able to sustain a successful career as a rap artist despite his checkered past?

2) Explain to students the next video is about a similar figure, but one that might look and dress a lot differently than T.I. As they are watching, students should listen for issues Alexander Hamilton had to overcome in his lifetime. You may need to read up on Alexander Hamilton as well, but every word of the song is true. Some question prompts you may wish to use are:

– What were some of the obstacles to success that Alexander Hamilton faced?
– Do you think he had a lot of friends and admirers?
– Why is Hamilton on our $10 bill?
– Where was Hamilton born? Do you think he was viewed as an “outsider”?
– What was the key to Hamilton’s success?
– If you could ask Hamilton one question, what would it be?
– How did Hamilton die? Is that important?

Hopefully, student will want to investigate Hamilton further, or, perhaps they will want to know more about Aaron Burr. In order to get Lin Manuel Miranda’s take on Alexander Hamilton, you may wish to read this New York Times article.

3) As a concluding activity, there are any number of options. Students could complete a Venn Diagram comparing T.I. and Hamilton. They could compose a conversation between the two. They could write about what they most admire in both figures. In my school, I know there would be students who would want to write and perform their own songs. I would encourage them to do so, but after researching another historical figure. This is where student choice is essential. Let them go where their interests are, but provide enough parameters so you have something to grade.

The most important objective is to get students thinking about historical figures as real people with real issues and real stories.

So, what about peace education?

The three pillars of peace education supported by these sources are Reframing History, Nurturing Emotional Intelligence, and Engaging Multiple Learning Styles. For visual and auditory learners, the information from these songs is presented in a way that is much less dry than the typical history textbook. If you provide copies of the lyrics for both songs, prompt students to internalize the message, and allow for student performance, you have essentially hit at least five of Gardner’s 8 intelligences. There is something in this particular format for almost every learning style.

In presenting Alexander Hamilton as “the embodiment of hip-hop,” history is re-framed to be about people more like our contemporaries – and maybe in an educational context the students can understand. More importantly, though, T.I. and Alexander Hamilton are both individuals who succeeded or failed based on the power of their words and ideas. Both men have flaws, and in Hamilton’s case they were fatal, but the power of their words are undeniable.

The third pillar of peace education this activity may offer is nurturing emotional intelligence. So much of emotional acumen is recognizing emotions and their causes. If students can view historical figures as actual people, they can be encouraged to identify with these figures through common struggles. Perhaps they may even be inspired to persevere through great obstacle and become great themselves.

Tourettes and Public Speaking



The content of this lesson is centered on a spoken word performance performed  by a young man on HBO’s Brave New Voices (a series focused on illuminating the power of youth poetry) .  This video was found on youtube and can be easily accessed on the internet.


This lesson plan is tailored to high school students in their junior or senior year and students predominantly in lower level classes, alternative schools and special education. Moreover,  this lesson plan would be most beneficial to students working with a speech pathologist.  The entire lesson is focused on speech and learning differences and empowerment through ownership, creativity and self acceptance. As a result, the classroom atmosphere would need to be formal, and a “safe space.” Overall, the presentation of a young person being proud of their disability will be both empowering and unique for most students in these classrooms. Hopefully, each student would leave with a divergent perspective on disability and would reclaim their own power and skillset to succeed not in spite of their disability, but because of their disability.

Goals and Objectives

Schedule of the Lesson (50 minute class):

(1) Watch video as a class (5 minutes)

(2) Write poem about yourself in relation to the poem (15 minutes)

(3) Perform poems in front of class (if students do not want to perform in front of the class they can perform to the  teacher by themselves on a separate date) (30 minutes)

Overall, this lesson plan will incorporate peace education by focusing on multiple intelligences and community building.  Public speaking is a skill that is beneficial and useful for most individuals; however, rarely are students given the opportunity to present or sharpen their speaking skills. As a result, this lesson plan will have each student write a poem about themselves and an asset that many have labeled as negative, but they feel is positive. From there, each student will have the opportunity to share in front of the class or present separately to the student. The teacher can tailor the length of this activity depending on the number of students. As a general note, each student should expect their poem to be about 1 to 2 minutes. Each student will have emot, as well as an activity that boost their public speaking skills.

Furthermore, this lesson plan will incorporate community building by facilitating an activity that promotes active listening, shared experiences and empathy.  Students may hear other stories that relate to their own and will respect the courage of their peers to share potentially vulnerable experiences in their own lives.