Sunday, February 7, 2010

11 Weeks to Earth Day: Week 6: Peace!

“If you with to experience peace, provide peace for another.” Tenzin Gyatso 14th Dalai Lama

Peace!  We all want peace, don’t we?  We want it in our lives, in our country, in the world.  I have always thought that peace is very relative; it’s easy to want peace, to preach peace when no one is infringing upon our reality.  It is a lot harder to espouse peace when someone is breaking down your door, invading your home, your country or attacking your children.  It’s rather like “enlightenment”; it’s easy to feel enlightened when sitting atop a beautiful mountain, but when home for the holidays with family, or confronted by an angry motorist in traffic, enlightenment seems to quickly vanish.  However, that should not deter us from seeking to nurture peace attributes in our children!

What does peace have to do with the Earth?  A lot!  One of the aspects that first drew me towards the  Earth Charter was the fact that it underscored the importance of reducing poverty and war since those two aspects alone result in so much misery and environmental destruction. Impoverished societies are often not sustainable simply because people are struggling to survive by any means available.  The ecological footprint of developing nations, however, is not likely to be the size of developed ones, quite the contrary in fact!  The Earth Charter seeks to provide a framework from which all societies can aspire to become more sustainable through the eradication of poverty and war.

Lesson Plans
1.  The Little Earth Charter Principle No. 6 is Peace. Do the children know anyone who is lonely, angry or upset?  These feelings can make someone feel separate from the rest of the group.  Sometimes giving someone a card can bridge the distance between themselves and others.  Invite the children to make a Peace card for someone they would like to reach out to.

2.  Creating empathy both for humans and non-humans.  Depending on the age of your children/students create a lesson in learning empathy.  With younger children, tell them that you have discovered a new plant, called a “Feeling Plant”, which demonstrates different feelings.  Invite the children to draw what they imagine a Feeling Plant would look like and then share the drawings with everyone. 
Ask students to explain what emotions their plant expresses and how it does that.  For example, do the leaves of their plant droop when they’re sad, or do they flap when excited?  Does it use its roots to express feelings?  If so, which ones?  Do its flowers change colors when it feels certain emotions, or does it bloom, or wilt?  Finally, ask the children whether they think plants really have feelings or not and challenge them to support their answers with reasons.  (From the Giraffe Classroom by Nancy Sokol Green

3.  With older students, expand the previous discussion to look at whether, in fact, the community of life as a whole emits feelings!  If this sounds too absurd, read this article, Is There An Ecological Unconscious? - by Daniel B. Smith about scholar Glenn Albrecht who coined the term Solastalgia which he defined as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault...a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home’.” What do your students think about this?  Have they ever had an experience of feeling distraught over an environmental destruction?
By introducing these conversations to young people, we might broaden their field of compassion. 
As Einstein said so eloquently: "A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

4.  Volunteering locally and globally.  Learning to volunteer in the community can be both fun and rewarding and it fosters a sense of responsibility to others in children.  Ask students if they are volunteering anywhere?  What has been their experience?  Invite them to write an essay about it.  Is there something that they could do to help kids in another country? PBS Kids has some good tips on volunteering.

5.  What is a vision of peace?  What does a sustainable world look like?  Invite students to create drawings, paintings, even a mural of their vision of peace and of a sustainable world.  Everything begins with imagination!  Challenge them to write poems or short stories about peace and sustainability.   The  Seeds of Peace Summer camp brings together children from different regions of conflict, to help empower them to resolve conflict.  If peace begins with each one of us, what are some ideas the children can suggest to engender peacefulness in their own lives?

Ultimately we are all affected by conflicts, because war creates poverty and misery for the people of a country, and impoverished people are hard pressed to think about anything except where their next meal is coming from.  Haiti is one example of a country where the environment has suffered because of internal conflict and corruption.  Locked in a vicious cycle of environmental disaster, hunger, poverty and reliance on international aid, it's perhaps the most extreme example of what is happening to many of the world's poorest countries. 

Song: Imagine, John Lennon  LYRICS to Imagine  YouTube Video of Imagine
Story: One of my favorite stories: The Monk and the Samurai  and A Tale for All Seasons

Green Action of the Week!  Have a clothing drive – collect clothes, shoes, toys, old computers, anything that might be useful for people in need.  Donate them either to Goodwill, or an organization that is accepting such items for places like Haiti.  Giving away used items helps to keep them from the landfill and provide others with items that are useful to them.

Have a great week finding Peace!
In gratitude to the Earth, for life!

 Zoomlab– Creating Virtual Playspaces while connecting with other Cultures 

Animation by JC Little of

Photo: By Edward Emery

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