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.

Theories of Change in Education

Theories of Change in Education

Change Theories in Education

Posted by

By Merrilee Henk, WTWL Writer

Merrilee3Merrilee Henk is a teacher and life long learner. She has a background in psychology and emotional and behavioral disabilities. Merrilee currently teaches elementary special education and is working on her doctorate in education. She has written numerous articles on parenting, discipline, behavior modification, and other child related topics. Merrilee gives presentations for the Wisconsin Public Library Summer Reading Program for Children and recently began writing for eHow. Follow these links to view non-teaching related articles by this author: How to Attack the “After Christmas Naughty” and How to Change Your Life. . .Pick Your Vice.

Public education has been evolving with society since its conception, and reform efforts continue to drive that evolution. Reform efforts that do not address reform from a systemic perspective have overwhelmed public education institutions (Gabriele, 2000). Ravitch (2004) described the existing failure of many reform efforts as, “… forgotten innovations [that] continue to live in schools where they were introduced with great fanfare . . . schools are like archeological sites; digging would reveal layer after layer of fossilized school reforms and obsolete programs” (as cited in Jones, 2007, p. 189).

Different theories approach systemic educational change from varying philosophies, strategies, models, and methods (Gabriele, 2000), searching for the theory that will create conditions necessary for systemic change. Gabriele declared these conditions to include an “ideal-based, holistic, continuing, participatory, user-friendly, easy to adjust/improve, and emancipatory” for effective change to occur. Three theories of change utilized by school districts are institutional theory, free market theory, and round table theory.

Institutional Change Theory

John Meyer and colleagues developed the institutional change theory in the 1970’s (Huerta & Zuckerman, 2009). Institutional change theory is a framework based on the relationship between schools and their cultural environments. Society’s cultural norms shape organizational structure by encouraging schools to conform to the accepted rules and rituals of an institution. Scott (2003) described institutional theory as “[emphasizing] the influence that an organization’s cultural environment has on organizational structure and behavior, and it seeks to understand the ways in which cultural rules from the environment shape or constrain organizational action” (as cited in Huerta and Zuckerman, p. 415).

Established institutions, operating with rules and rituals that have come to represent legitimate schooling, become role models for other institutions seeking legitimacy. But not all institutions want to maintain the status quo and are constrained by societal and institutional norms. Huerta and Zuckerman (2009) cited the example of charter schools seeking to break away from the “long-standing institutionalized patterns of teaching and learning…” (p. 416). The institutionalization of the public school system has provided direction and limitations concurrently.

Free market theory

The free market theory proposes that educational change occurs as schools compete for excellence (Marion, 2002). The assumption that all schools begin with an equal opportunity to achieve excellence is attractive to proponents of school choice because it justifies the removal of their children from a failing school to one of greater success. According to the free market theory, the blame for failure lies with the school district.

Adnett and Davies (2000) and Lubienski (2006) proclaimed that federal regulations make it impossible for educational institutions to be genuine free markets, resulting in the failure of the free market theory in educational change (as cited in Eyal, 2008). Eyal deduced that a free market system, if possible to create in the public school system, would fail to produce significant change because the characteristics of the free market system would not create an environment conducive to change.

Roundtable Theory

The roundtable theory (RT) is a shared leadership theory for school change. Gabriele (2002) explained RT as distributing leadership and learning equally across participants. Involving stakeholders in the decision-making process through shared leadership can lead to higher levels of commitment. Gabriele described the ideal RT practice as being run according to a Leader’s Guide developed by consensus and periodically reviewed. The RT sessions would include a reading and review of literature on a topic during a 60 minute session, a time for participants to respond individually and uninterrupted by other members, and all participants would have an equal voice.

A change theory positively focused on strengths, rather than problems would be an ideal choice for school change. Gabriele described the RT model as based on achieving an ideal state, including all stakeholders, and being conducted within the regular school day. RT is an on-going process allowing schools to progress toward excellence. Gabriele noted that RT is a research-based model proven to lead organizations toward the “self-transformation of participants and goal attainment.

Change will affect staff regardless of the change theory chosen or the changes proposed. Bueker (2005) stated, “One of the most difficult aspects of implementing a whole school reform is striking a balance between proper program implementation and individual teacher flexibility” (p. 411). Bueker noted that empowering teachers, treating teachers with professional respect, and providing structured and continuing support for staff, could minimize the negative effects of school change.

National trends, such as the accountability movement and federal mandates like the No Child Left Behind Act, can prescribe change. H. K. Meyer and Rowan (2006) described the affect that trends can have on education when they stated, “we might apply new institutional constructs that can account for both an evolving theory and its application to changing policy contexts, including the “tightening control of government over the core technology of schooling” linked to standards and accountability reforms” (as cited in Huerta and Zuckerman, (2009), p. 417). The choice for school reform can be beyond the control of the school district, the administration, and the teachers it will affect.


School change is constant. Eyal (2008) suggested, “despite the prevalent image of public institutions as highly conservative and stagnant, it might be interesting to investigate their potential as sources of innovations that are no less radical than the alternatives proposed by free-market ideologues” (p. 487). School reform creates stress on all stakeholders and requires careful consideration of theoretical framework. Vernez, et al. (2004) reported that there is little evidence to support the validity and effectiveness of many school reform initiative policies, which makes research of the different strategies essential.

An analysis of change theory models prior to setting a course is critical. The RT model described by Gabriele is research-based and proven to be an effective school change theory. The effectiveness of the RT model in practice, during the call for reform to meet the skills of the 21st Century, warrants further research on the applicability of RT in meeting the educational needs of the future. School structure will continue to evolve, and the reform theories proven effective by research will continue to be refined.


Bueker, C. (2005). Teachers’ reports of the effects of a whole-school literacy reform model on teacher turnover. Elementary School Journal, 105(4), 395-416.

Eyal, O. (2009). Degeneracy, resilience and free markets in educational innovation. Systems Research & Behavioral Science, 26(4), 487-491., doi:10.1002/sres.940

Huerta, L. & Zuckerman, A. (2009). An institutional theory analysis of charter schools: Addressing institutional challenges to scale. PJE. Peabody Journal of Education, 84(3), 414-431., doi:10.1080/01619560902973621

Gabriele, S. F. (2002). The “roundtable” for school learning and planning groups: Planting a seed for systemic renewal. Kybernetes: Special Double Issue: Systems and Cybernetics: New…, 31(9/10), 1361-1368. Retrieved October 10, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 277870851).

Marion, R. (2002). Leadership in education: Organizational theory for the practitioner. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Jones, B. A. (2007). “Table top theory” as a policy framework for gauging the confluence of teaching and private sector interests. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(2), 185-204.

Related posts:

  1. Empowering Change in Education Teachers in every district face the frustrations of working under…
  2. Radical change and wikis: teaching new literacies. Luce-Kapler, R.  (2007, November).  Radical change and wikis:  teaching new…
  3. The Edge of Education Carnival. Issue 3 Welcome to the third issue of the Edge of Education…
  4. Activating the desire to learn. An Annotation by Laurie Walsh Internal control psychology’s choice theory…
  5. “Choice theory” and student success. Glasser, W. Glasser, W.  (1997).  “Choice theory” and student success.  Phi Delta…

Visual Peacemakers


Connecting with people across lines of difference is a fundamental goal in conflict resolution and this process has, in some ways, become more accessible due to the presence of the internet and social media tools.  Through a course I am taking focusing on Art as a means of social change, I came across the online resource  This site is essentially a host for the collaborative project coordinated by the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers.  Working with such partners as Peace Catalyst International, the Guild of visual artist and photographers challenge stereotypes and prejudices by capturing the beauty of diversity.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers resource consists of collections of photographs, documentaries, and photo blogs that work to promote the message of the Guild as described in their manifesto.  By capturing the human elements of cultures, the project seeks to build peace.

Throughout history people have fallen into the trap of making enemies with, demonizing, stereotyping, and fighting the “other.” There has been a flood of conflict based on ethnic, cultural, and religious identity in the post-cold war era that has ended the lives of millions, destroyed economies, and torn apart families.

Much of this has been fueled by the growing availability of technology, especially photography and videography. While the written word carries an expectation for honesty, there is a void regarding the ethics of images due to their subjective nature. This void has opened the door for photographers to exploit people’s desire to confirm their thoughts about the “other”—mobilizing innumerable people towards slander, violence, and other fear-based responses.

Since 9/11, conflicts between Muslim cultures and western cultures have been growing in intensity. There are deep misunderstandings and stereotypes that are producing widespread fear and anger.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP) was created to build bridges of peace across ethnic, cultural, and religious lines through visual communication that is both accountable to an ethical standard and created by those who authentically care about people.

This resource can be used in both the formal and informal learning space due to its accessibility and the intelligible nature of the content.  Visually the images are powerful and the stories that the pictures tell are worth sharing with students and learners of all ages.  This resource can incite discussions about toleration, diversity, and the beauty and dignity of human life which is aptly illustrated in this project.  This approach to facilitating understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures while also educating the international audience about global issues is creative response to the political, social, and religious conflicts that are prolific in our contemporary landscape.

Using this resources students will not only be exposed to global conflict as humanized by the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers, but will also gain insight into the varied approaches experts in the field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution are tackling and implementing.

Video Games for Peace

Three of the top ten best-selling video games of 2011 are characterized by explicit violence and main objectives which celebrate using various means by the user character to destroy other characters (1). While there has been very little clear evidence linking violence portrayed in video games to violence by users, the game market is notably void of games made explicitly for peace.  Video games can be used by educators to promote peaceful ways to conflict resolution without distracting from the education system’s core curriculum.

Video games as explicit means of peace education do not form an established genre in the gaming world. But, some games have been developed that reward peaceful means of conflict resolution and penalize violent behavior. For example, the video game Civilization tasks the user with building a thriving civilization from the ground up, but the user is penalized if major violence and riots occur in the user’s civilization. The 2007 video game PeaceMaker, tasks the user with taking one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and implementing a peaceful two-state solution, all the while being challenged by realistic events occuring during the user’s play.

A short video on PeaceMaker

In what context can video games for peace be used in learning? What type of lesson plan can be used with the goal of peace learning in mind? One possible context is for these video games to be integrated into the computer classes present in primary and secondary education. Simple point-and-click mini-games, which reward win-win situations between the user and computer intelligence and penalize aggressive behavior, can demonstrate peaceful ways to deal with conflict and are appropriate for users with relatively basic computer skills. These games can be used by educators to reward excellence and progress in computer classes, and since they are cheap and easy to produce, can be integrated into existing computer literacy programs. Certain classes in the social sciences could play a short video game that explains peaceful methods of conflict resolution and challenges students with finding the most peaceful solution in relations between people and groups of people. Students with advanced computer skills could play role-playing games, such as Civilization and PeaceMaker, in classes, clubs, and camps. In all these examples, it is essential for the educator to review the rewards-and-penalties systems existing in the game and prompt the students to reflect on how these games simulate decision making in conflicts.

Implementation of a lesson plan using video games is hampered by two problems: a lack of resources and a lack of pedagogy. Many education systems do not have computers available for student use aside from special computer literacy courses or lack adequate computer labs for students to use in this lesson plan. The use of video games geared for peace in a school curriculum could face problems in implementation because video games are often associated with laziness and distractions from education, rather than a form of education itself. Peace education through video games would receive less criticism in being implemented if educators demonstrated the success of other interactive games in teaching educational topics and assisting core curricula.

Video games can be used as an educational resource for peace. Video games designed specifically for demonstrating and rewarding peaceful solutions to conflicts can be integrated into existing educational settings and can fit into larger lesson plans on conflict and peace. Peace educators can use video games as a way for students to explore peace in an accessible environment and apply peace education topics to simulated conflicts.

(1): These three games, (Call of Duty: Black Ops, Mortal Kombat and L.A. Noire), are noted by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for blood, gore, and intensive violence.  The best-seller rating comes from a CNBC article.

Useful Links:

Antony Adolf article on peace-based video games

PeaceMaker video game official website (can be purchased for download)