Teaching Peace with Elyse: May Peace Prevail!

Saturday, June 21 was the summer solstice for those of us in the northern hemisphere. It was also World Peace Day when people of many countries were united in common thought: may peace prevail in our lifetime.

Contemplating peace while walking in Golden Gate Park, I came across this tree.

Hanging on its branches were origami cranes. Written on each was a prayer of peace and well-being for all people of the earth

I immediately consider what a tiny drop in the ocean of worldwide peace-making my little program contributes. Self-doubts bubble to the surface. In the broad scheme of things how can teaching peace to preschoolers have an effect on such a worldwide problem.

Then I remember the ripple effect of a small stone cast into a pond. What if each child was a ‘shiny stone,’ forming outward concentric circles wherever they go. Tools of peace are stuffed down into their pockets, with other found treasures, to be retrieved and shared with others, as needed.

Some will take pieces of the program when they leave for their new schools. They will become the teachers and mentors of other children. Speaking their truths and listening to each other may spread outward in random but continuous circles. When I imagine this, my doubts diminish.

Back from my walk, I Google "Butterfly Effect." According to Wikipedia, “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependency on initial conditions in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks earlier.” I smile and stop contemplating the world peace problem. I re-focus on my little corner of the world.

Tools of peace come in many forms. They can be utilized for many purposes, whether for inner peace, peaceful interactions between people, or peace-making between countries. Some of us go wide and are recognized for their global work. They teach to and inspire large groups of people, make policy or contribute in a myriad of far-reaching ways.

If, as teachers, we compare ourselves, we might remain in their shadow. Instead, we could choose to highly value each of our contributions. We each play a necessary part to the daily lives of the children we impact.  I’ve heard our contribution to the greater whole called “aligning with the greater goodness of life.” With life at our backs, we remain inspired, doing our part in helping peace prevail.


Artful Expression for Developing Emotional Literacy:

I have blogged before on the importance of helping children name their feelings. (See Art and Emotional Literacy, April 17, 2013.

Using art to identify where in our bodies we hold these feelings is useful for young children. In a moment of intense feelings, you might ask the child/children:

·         “Where in your body do you feel tight? Can you point to it? Let’s breathe into that part of the body, as if it had a nose.” (The very idea that a tummy could have a nose may be enough to lighten the intense feelings and open a bridge for communication.)

·         “Can you name the feeling?” For young children, it may be a kinesthetic rather than a cognitive awareness. Before they have the words to name the feelings in their body, they are often able to express it through movement, dance or art.

·         Ask them to move or dance out that feeling. “If you could make up a movement or a dance for your feeling, what would it look like?” (You may need to demonstrate a zany expression of your own. This modeling helps them move through self-consciousness. The children never tire of asking me to ‘do the angry dance.’ When the amygdala is not in control of our feelings, we can all laugh together.)

·         “If it had a color, what color would it be?”

·         “Would you like to draw it?” (Adults might question this, “What do mean ‘draw’ my feelings?” Children usually need little prompting.) I am inspired by how they express their feelings through color, line and shape.)

After writing this blog, I returned to Golden Gate Park to again view what I called The Peace Tree. All the origami cranes had been removed. For a moment, I felt sad.  Sitting on a rock, I contemplated where they might have ‘flown to.’

At the corner of my vision, I noticed a spot of blue on a beautiful red-leafed tree. Walking over to it, I observed one lone crane of peace blowing in the wind and smiled.

In making meaning of it, I would like to think that while other messages of peace spread globally, this one remains local.