International Day of Peace

Peace is an important part of my curriculum at school with my preschool class.  It begins with kindness- that means children understand feelings and begin to develop empathy.  A tall order, but probably the most important thing young children learn.

Most recently, my class delivered a Peace Quilt (two years in the making) to the Massachusetts State House.  The Governor and Lieutenant Governor were there to accept it.  They were thrilled.  Governor Baker said that hate is learned.  He was right.  Peace is learned, too.

And children “get it”.  I will never forget Colin’s words from years ago when my journey of teaching Peace began.  Never.  Read on…

When I was in the library on this day last year, I saw they had a display of peace books to recognize International Day of Peace.  To my surprise, one of my classroom books was included in the display.

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Today is the day.  It is International Day of Peace.  My journey to peace with children is a good story, and the travels along that pathway have been far more meaningful than I imagined.  Peace.  The title on the library book says “quilt”, because my class designed an authentic Peace Quilt.  That quilt is my blog photo!  But, let’s start at the beginning, as it is a really good story.  And all my stories begin with,

“It happened like this…”

Peace was the theme in my school years ago, and children embraced it with acts of kindness for others.  During that school year my husband and I attended a wedding in Philadelphia.  With a few hours to spare we toured the historic district to see Carpenter’s Hall.  Ten minutes before the 5:00 closing we dashed across the street  to the National Liberty Museum.  I was thunderstruck by their magnificent Peace Portal in the lobby, a canopy of stained glass above intricately carved wrought iron columns.

I just knew.  This was “it”, something my classroom could make.  We had celebrated peace… yet this was different, much more meaningful.

Back at school we recreated the peace portal on top of our loft.  Tubes to hold rolled carpeting became the four posts.  Each child decorated a velum sheet with colored tissue paper, and we connected all the art to hang above our peace portal.  Tiny white lights over the canopy was the finish.  It was beautiful.

I never expected what happened next.  Children wanted to be there, just sit and be.  So, I decided to interview each child when they were under the peace portal and simply ask them what peace was.  The answers were so profound we made a book.

Colin told me, “Peace makes me feel hearty.”  I said, “Oh, it makes you feel strong.”  Colin looked at me like I had three heads, patted his heart with his hand and said, “No, heart-y.”

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The following year I visited the Bennington Musuem in Bennington, VT to see their Grandma Moses collection.  When I walked in, there was a display of Haitian quilts.  They were the most beautiful quilts I had ever seen- murals, works of art.  Again, I just knewThis was something my class could do.  This was important.

We could make a peace quilt.  And yes, we did.

I met Milly, a master quilter.  She was the magician and lover of children who transformed their design into a work of art.  And, it became a magnificent quilt that hangs in the museum in Philadelphia.

That is the story behind the book at the library.  It is a book of poems about peace, based on the experiences of making the quilt.  After all, making a peace quilt is incredible.  Writing a book about it is only natural.

Here’s the point- peace is about the heart, thinking and doing the right thing. The little things are the most important of all, because they’re the foundation for the big things.  By teaching children’s heart they come to understand peace.

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Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Kindness, Peace, Teaching young children and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to International Day of Peace

  1. Pingback: International Day of Peace — A Teacher’s Reflections | nz

  2. beetleypete says:

    Nice story as always, Jennie. From the mouths of babes…
    I hope your class grow up to see some peace in their time. We never have.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. So wonderful and poignant, Jenny! What wonderful work you do for the next generation.

  4. Another insightful and touching post, Jennie. Congrats.

  5. reocochran says:

    This is always one of my favorite parts of your lessons, Jennie. 🕊💞

  6. What a great story. I love hearing the beginning of what led to the making of your (and Millie’s and the kids’) fabulous quilts!

  7. How beautiful. I too used to teach what in the UK we call “infants” and we made a quilt one year to celebrate our different faiths (and secularism). If I was still teaching I’d pick up your peace quilt idea too, and I love the peace space where children just like to sit. Invite the politicians maybe?

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Jessica. It has been a remarkable journey, and it still keeps going. The space for peace was really special. I can think of many people who we could invite! Thank you for your story. I think it is wonderful.

  8. This is so wonderful. I didn’t realize your peace quilt is hanging in a museum in Philadelphia! Somehow I missed that. Pretty awesome, Jennie. You’re preparing young minds for a bright future. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Diana. The Peace quilt in Philadelphia is my blog photo. It is wonderful to follow the lead of children, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as Peace.

  9. lisakunk says:

    Oh for more people like you.

  10. I agree with Lisa. 🙂
    Jennie the importance of kindness cannot be understated. It’s a concept that is evaporating in this world.
    I learned from an old (good) boss that a recent boss (yes upper management is a revolving door) told him my “kindness toward others is stupidity.” So in a self-absorbed world where kindness is equated with stupidity, you are teaching everyone an invaluable lesson. Hugs on the wing!

  11. Norah says:

    I love your stories, Jennie, and I think this one is the best of all. We all need to feel heart-y and share the love around, as you do. Well done.

  12. This is a lovely post about teaching peace, Jennie. Your ideas are simply amazing and you are making a real difference in this world by teaching children in such a memorable way.

  13. Pingback: Peace in a pod | Norah Colvin

  14. dgkaye says:

    This is beautiful Jennie. We need more like you to teach the little ones goodness so they can grow up and know the right way. 🙂 x

  15. Keep up the good work! Love what you are doing.

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