How to Create Peace in an Elementary School

Laura White

Imagine that on any given day, instead of having to fish for compliments from your friends or awkwardly try to find the right moments to dish them out, you could walk into a room and read a bulletin of all the great things others think of you, and you could add your own compliments too such as, “helpful,” “caring,” and “trustworthy.” At Mission Grammar School in Boston, Massachusetts, this scenario is not too far off from reality.

As part of the Peace First program at Mission Grammar, third graders craft compliment boards where they can post compliments to their classmates and read what their classmates say about them.  This activity is one of the favorite parts of the Peace First program for one Mission Grammar third grader. She enthusiastically explains, “The compliment boards are my favorite because people say nice things about you, and you say nice things about other people!”

A commitment to peace is not limited only to this third grade class; in fact, it abounds at Mission Grammar School. If you wander through the halls of this school on a rainy indoor recess in the fall, you can see that the commitment to peace is visible everywhere, from the posters on the walls to the way students and staff interact with each other. Every child and adult work together to inspire empathy within each other and have developed some pretty innovative ways for developing both academic, social, and emotional skills.

Maura Bradley, principal of Mission Grammar School, says that some of her most memorable Peace First experiences come from the service-learning projects that her students design themselves every second semester of the school year. One year, Mission Grammar’s 8th grade class inspired the neighboring Harvard School of Public Health to partner with them to create a school-wide recycling program. “The kids walked over and asked for a meeting, and they worked together that semester to get every class in our school recycling,” recalls Bradley.  Now, students at Mission Grammar School sit on one of Harvard’s “Green Teams,” a university sustainability organization.  This is just one of many examples of what peace and empathy look like at Mission Grammar School.

Activity: What does peace look like to your students?

Following the example of the Peace First program at Mission Grammar School, ask your students or children to draw a picture of what peace looks like to them. Challenge them to make that vision a reality.

Contributions from Erin Robertson.