Background: In researching for my conflict resolution skills session assignment, I stumbled across a book, Making Peace Last, that takes the concept of systems thinking – one I originally grappled with during my master’s program in city and regional planning – and meshes it with peacebuilding. In the book, author Robert Ricigliano explains the paradox of macro-micro conflict, which is best summed up in this quotation he highlights:
“All the good peace work being done should be adding up to more than it is. The potential of all these efforts is not being realized.” – Mary Anderson and Lara Olson
No Impact Man: The Documentary, a film by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, follows the experiment of author Colin Beavan and his family as they attempt to live with no environmental impact in New York City for one year. It is a fairly well known documentary (and book) made in 2009 and is available streaming on Netflix and in the AU Library.
This film would be best suited to a high school and younger adult audience because of the open mindedness that often disappears in older age groups. Also, since some of the themes are more mature (no, not in sexual ways…) I feel that the film might be lost on younger audiences. Because of the way I envision using this piece, to launch into a larger project that would span 2-4 weeks, it would fit best in a more formal environment or at least an environment which offers repetitive meetings for a minimum of one month. Because of the diverse themes the film presents, it could fit into many different subjects, but environmental science and psychology are the two that initially come to mind.
The idea for an activity around this film is pretty obvious but has many opportunities for discussion and introspection. First the class will watch the film. It is about 90 minutes so it may be split up over two class periods. This will lead nicely into a discussion of the students’ impressions of Colin and his wife, as well what they thought were the most reasonable things to give up and the things they would not be willing to give up (I’m sure electricity will be top on the list of things no one would be willing to live without). After this discussion the students will each be charged with a week-long project: choose something in their life to live without for one week straight. Document this journey either with a written journal or video journal (depending on resources and/or student learning preference). After their week of abstinence, the students must explore how this impacted their life, the environment and the world and present their findings in a creative class presentation. The larger issues of personal peace and sustainability can be discussed after the students have a chance to ruminate on their experiences.
At first glance No Impact Man seems strictly like an environmental impact documentary, which does fit in with the peace concept of sustainability. It could also qualify for a Pacifist theme. While watching the film, though, another theme emerges: personal peace. Sure you can take away all of the environmental positives from the film: waste less, use less energy, be less materialistic, eat locally, etc., and these are absolutely important. But I think the more poignant take away was the improvement of the family and the personal peace they each achieved. Better yet, this was a surprise to Colin and his wife as well. They too went in with the environment in mind and came out with a much bigger picture experience. Their health improved from eating locally and cutting out take away. They state that they become better parents to their 3-year-old daughter by playing more family games and cutting out television. They spend more time out of doors exploring the city and being social, especially when they give up electricity. They are less invested in material possessions and more focused on the well being of their family. Add to this the obvious environmental discoveries and you have a recipe for a great peace teaching film.
The resource I’d like to recommend is the Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project. This is an organization that provides books written by local authors to classrooms, as well as places local authors in schools for a book talk with the students. It is an organization that has been used by the English Department at Ballou Senior High School for years:
This year, I am taking advantage of this opportunity for the first time.
I think the best educational setting for this program is one that houses potential burgeoning authors. This can mean people of any age or background. The program requires the participants to read and dissect a work of literature in advance, in order to be prepared for the author’s visit that culminates the experience. Therefore, there would need to be some sort of framework for formal teaching and collaborating.
This year, I am using this resource to have my students study the genre of Memoir. I have selected two texts, one for my 9th graders and one for the 10th grade, that I hope will reach my students by resonating with their own experiences; as well as expose them to the world beyond what they know here in D.C. My hope is that students will learn that literature is liberation. I want them to realize that literature is everywhere and that it can be for anyone. I think too many of them maintain the bias that reading and writing are irrelevant for their lives. I want them to see that personal and social issues can be unearthed and exposed through powerful literature. I want them to meet the person behind the page and see there is no mystery there, there is no magical gift. There is an individual with an idea and determination to pen it. It could indeed be them one day.
I believe this resource supports several Peace Education pillars, particularly Reframing History, and Skill Building. Through the Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project, my students will be reading the personal stories of people who have lived through traumatic experiences and periods of history. Yet, there will be more to these stories than destruction and despair. There is a protagonist who survived and grew, someone who chooses to give back by visiting young people in schools. This is a different ending to the story of violence and chaos so often told by history. Furthermore, by working closely with a text and then the author of that text, students witness first-hand that the skills they learn in the classroom will not stay there if they know how to apply them. The fact that the authors are local powerfully illustrates to the students that there is a life other than the one they know, and this life of success is certainly within reach.
826 Valencia street is an organization started by Dave Eggers that provides free after school tutoring to students in Berkely, CA. I first heard about it at his talk at the 2011 National Book Festival, and learned more about it via his TEDtalk.
The students range in age and ability. The only necessary constant is that one student is matched with one volunteer tutor. The tutor devotes all of his or her time to this one student to help with whatever he or she needs. All this occurs in a combination publishing house and pirate shop.
As the organization grew, they began going into schools to tutor during the school day, and one school offered a classroom that could be continually staffed by volunteers. They were then asked to produce a book of students’ writing about nonviolence, encouraging students to give their all in the creation of a product that will be sold worldwide. Students grow in their love for learning and are encouraged to follow their passions. Similar organizations have started in New York, Cincinnati, Ireland and elsewhere so it is possible to start this in your own community, or take advantage of a similar organization that might already be present.
Best of all, 826 Valencia Street connects members of the community who have the time and skills with students who need their help. The pirate store brings in people off the street and they can see the tutoring that is happening while they shop. This is not a true classroom but rather brings education outside into the community, creating community building on a macro level. The individual attention allows for the tutor to engage in a student’s preferred learning style and be sensitive of the emotions students bring with them.
America loves social media, and it’s not just us! The entire world has been connected and arguably addicted to social media networks. Through sites like Facebook and Myspace we’ve created another world in which we are able to identify with one another. No surprise there. What is surprising is the only recent emergence of non-profits on the social media scene. Sure, every non-profit has a webpage. It’s highly likely that most non-profits are now connected to their members through Facebook and even Twitter. Some non-profits have even expanded into developing their Tumblr and/or their StumbleUpon pages; potentially even posting things on Pinterest.
This week, the entire world was taken captive by a now, very well known video called Kony 2012 (which, I will post below) put together by a nonprofit called Invisible Children.
As a non-profit, you might be thinking- so what?
Actually, this is an outstanding example of what you can accomplish with something as simple as connecting all of your social media sites simultaneously. This video, DESPITE the fact that it is an incredible thirty minutes long; grabbed the attention span of an entire nation, and then world. 76 MILLION people have now viewed this video. Half of these viewers probably had no idea who Joesph Kony and/or the LRA was. Now, the 76 million viewers are both educated and passionate about a cause they knew nothing about. Within 24 hours the video went viral on Youtube and facebook while simultaneously becoming a popular world twitter trend… Even more importantly, how many people have donated or become involved in a cause they knew nothing about until they saw it on their facebook page?
You may not agree with this video and you may not care about the message that Invisible Children is trying to spread; but ask yourself- how can my non-profit utilize social media and videos to educate millions of people around the world? It’s a fantastic opportunity to challenge and excite those who work with you in your non-profit while also revitalizing your members’ interests in your cause. The best part about these videos is that they have the potential to unify millions of people for one cause; and so do you.
I found a great resource for non-profit education on social media and video feeds called See3 which introduces ‘Media with a Message’ videos. This website also includes free webinars and resources to help you get started on your journey in attracting members and (potentially) donors. I really love this website, they use videos to teach their audience about ways to use video in order to connect with their donors and members (talk about in your literal education…).
Never fear if you are not a non-profit; this resource can also be incorporated into a lesson plan for high school and college students. Challenge your classes to create educational videos about a subject that they are passionate about and find a way to spread them through social networks to educate people, instead of writing a typical paper about the same subject in which only you (their teacher) sees it. It could be a great way to see creativity come alive, and also find out about your student’s interests in a way that doesn’t bore you (hopefully…) 😉
I hope you find this as challenging, motivating, and as exciting as I do! Good Luck!
Actor turned filmmaker Jeremy Gilley founded Peace One Day after realizing that there was no starting point for peace, no day of global unity, no day for intercultural cooperation, and no day for when humanity came together. Gilley felt that if we united as one then that might be the key to humanity’s survival. He started his advocacy for his Peace Day by writing letters to every state leader, their ambassadors, Nobel peace laureates, NGOs, faith based organizations, and other various organizations. Then in 1999 his dream of Peace One Day came true. In 1999 all the member states of the United Nations adopted the 21st of September as Peace Day. This day is recognized as an annual global ceasefire and non-violence day.
Jeremy Gilley’s Peace One Day is recognized every year, but unfortunately the day hasn’t gotten the full attention it deserves. Gilley was to make a statement with Kofi Annan on September 11, 2001 to advocate for his event, but because of the attack on the World Trade Center the statement never happened. However, the events on September 11, 2001 made Gilley work even harder. He was even more empowered and inspired to move forward with Peace One Day. This led to Gilley, along with actor Jude Law, to start work for peace in Afghanistan. Because of the pair advocating for Peace Day the Taliban sent him letter and said they would observe the day, and not engage in violence. The Taliban doing this led to 1.6 million people vaccinated for polio and violence on that day was down by 70%.
Due to this success Gilley has initiated a new plan for 2012, a Global Truce Day. This day will show younger generations that we can make a stop to violence with small acts of non-violence in our everyday lives. Gilley wants to utilize all kinds of resources from dance to social media and globally network with government, intergovernmental, and education leaders.
Gilley’s idea of utilizing education into his plan for 2012’s Global Truce Day helped persuade me to write this blog post about his event. Gilley wants to get young people to be the driving force to inspire individual action, so he has complied an educational resource for teachers to implement non-violence and other peace concepts into the classroom.
I can see this educational resource implemented in almost every formal grade level classroom. The students would need a little background on what conflict is, so because of this, starting at the fourth or fifth grade level would probably be best. However, this could fluctuate determined on how the students are influenced by conflict in their everyday lives. By implementing these resources in a classroom setting these children can practice non-violence in their schools, and also bring what they learn outside of the school setting and teach others.
Ways to use this resource:
Gilley includes many different types of lessons in his educational resource. This comprehensive resource includes 21 one-hour lesson plans for exploring issues of peace, nonviolence, and the protection of the environment, with extended projects for Peace Day on September 21st. I think this resource would be best integrated by first starting with showing Gilley’s documentary for one day of class, doing the lesson that corresponds to that, then moving on to the individual lessons maybe once a month until the actual Peace Day on the 21st. The students could help plan how they want their school to recognize and celebrate the event. In addition to using Gilley’s lesson plans I think it would be important for each teacher to incorporate their own discussion in their classrooms on non-violence, and other peace education areas. This would help each individual classroom relate to what types of conflict are going on in their societies.
The goal of each lesson, whether it be with Gilley’s lesson plans or the teacher’s, would be to spread knowledge about ways to bring about peace in small ways. These can be from their knowledge on non-violence to their knowledge of eco-resolution. Each lesson will more than likely encourage a student to go out and spread what they learned to another, and therefore spread the movement of peace.
“We should oppose violence in all situations and of course there’s no better way of bringing that about than through the power of education.”-Jeremy Gilley
As an adult, I’ve been involved with an inter-agency simulation, here in the Washington, DC area sponsored by the United States Institute for Peace called Strategic Economic Needs and Security Exercise (SENSE). SENSE has been used in peace talks across the world and is a great resource and training tool for governmental leaders and public servants who wish to understand the complexities of war and building sustainable peace in a conflict, or post-conflict country.
This all sounds very boring (yawn), right? To be honest, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my (adult) life. Over a three day period, these often well-known and extremely intelligent adults are brought back to their basics: scheming, negotiating, collaborating and finding creative solutions to current world issues. We’ve done simulations for inter-agency adults who are ruthless, to Conflict Analysis and Peace Operation students who are actually too collaborative and sometimes unrealistic; but I’ve always wondered, how would children react?
Little did I know, an educator named John Hunter has been playing this simulation with his 4th grade classes for more than 25 years and loving every surprising and challenging moment along the way. Here he is speaking about his experiences on Ted Talks in 2011:
What I find most amazing about the idea of holding ‘World Peace Games’ for classrooms of children is that they have the opportunity to face struggles, frustrations, and conflict with peers head on while finding creative solutions through negotiation, collaboration, effective communication, and most importantly- without violence. These are traits I wish I had learned at any level before college, which is sadly when and where I’ve learned most of them. Additionally, it gives children the idea that they are intelligent, realistic, and smart individuals who can find the solution to relevant and world-wide issues; and hopefully, the confidence to solve any other problems that evolve in their day-to-day life. Plus, it’s fun!
This is probably why John Hunter was named in Time Magazine as one of the 12 Education Activists of 2012, and was also featured in a documentary based around his experiences with 4th graders and the World Peace Games; which you can see the trailer.
Personally, I think this model is highly applicable at any level of school. John Hunter’s website World Peace Game features details on what the game is and how to play it although unfortunately, it appears as though they don’t give exact instructions; only the ability to contact John Hunter and have him teach your class the game. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t implement your own similar simulation with the same basic formula: 5 countries, specific resources, a driving issue, and a board in which they can actively witness the consequences or benefits of their actions…
For teachers, administrators, and school systems who are unsure, can watch the movie and judge for themselves; or better yet, show it to their students and gauge their interest in playing the game themselves…
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.