Jefferson students celebrate International Day of Peace

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–In 1981, the United Nations established and observed the first International Day of Peace. In the 40 years that followed, the day has grown to allow everyone, from large countries to small groups, to work for peace wherever they can. This year, Jefferson Elementary School in Muscatine celebrated its first International Day of Peace, working hard in many of their different classes to prepare for a special ceremony.

Jefferson Principal Kandy Steel worked with Krista Regennitter, program officer for Global Education at the Stanley Center for Peace and Security, to pull the event together. “Kandy and I were talking over the summer about the World Peace Day Project,” Regenniter explained. Originally started by a teacher in North Carolina, the project has children in schools from all over sing the same peace themed song and splices them together into a single powerful video.

From that idea, Jefferson’s International Day of Peace activities grew. Students in every grade practiced singing the song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” in music class, under the direction of music teacher Cole Flack. In art, Wendy Stansbury worked with students at all levels to create their own pinwheels, each featuring a quotation about peace that they found meaningful. In English language arts classes, students also read stories about peace and ways they could resolve conflicts and create a more peaceful world. Several groups of sixth grade students worked with their teachers to select and practice famous sayings, poems, and speeches about peace to present at their International Day of Peace assembly.

The morning of the 21st, the entire school gathered in the gym for their culminating assembly. Sixth grade students read several different selections including, quotations from Nelson Mandela, Kid President, and the Oak Knoll Students; the poems “Change Sings” by Amanda Gorman and “Peace;” and the lyrics to the song “I Wish You Peace,” by the Eagles. In the middle of the assembly, every student stood up and sang, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” with great enthusiasm. Before returning to their classrooms, students went out to the playing field behind the school to create an enormous peace sign.

Regennitter welcomed these opportunities to bring peace education into the classroom at all grade levels and hoped the lessons kids learned would serve them well throughout their lives. “Sometimes, when people hear peace, they assume it means avoiding conflict,” she observed. However, Regenniter found that, “at the heart of peace is conflict resolution,” adding, “these are skills students will use in their everyday lives as citizens in Muscatine, as coworkers, and in their families.”

Steel also valued the ways that the International Day of Peace preparation students did connected well with their social emotional learning goals for the year, reinforcing that everyone belongs and that reducing conflict at school and elsewhere creates a positive environment for everyone. “As the principal of Jefferson, I want every student and adult to know they matter and what they do matters,” emphasized Steel. “I think that because of the social emotional learning we do, our kids thrive here.”

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