...intergenerational activity. For older adults, it has physical and therapeutic value (e.g. hand-eye coordination, range of motion, flexibility). It's a simple demonstration of how a group must work together to achieve a goal -- in this case, preventing a balloon from touching the floor.
People can all stand in a circle with the common goal of keeping the balloon in the air using their hands. When the balloon heads in your direction, it's your turn to give it a swat.
Variation: Make two teams. Teams face each other and try to keep the balloon off the floor on their side of a dividing line.
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Art); Community Groups; Seniors Groups/ Facilities.
What You Need: Toothpicks.
This is another activity that deals with cooperation, but at a more complex level. It shows that it can get more difficult to cooperate depending on the task and the number of people involved. Children can do the activity in groups, or it can be an intergenerational activity (e.g. a class of students with a group of older adults).
Start by having people work in pairs. Each group gets approximately 60 toothpicks. The challenge is to make something on a flat surface with the toothpicks (e.g. a design, face, structure, etc.). Groups can be as creative as they wish. The only rules: each person has an equal say in what the group creates; and each person gets a turn to help make it.
Allow ten minutes for groups to make their creations. Then have everyone take a look at what each group made.
Repeat this activity several times, each time combining groups until you run out of people. For example, the second round would consist of groups of four; the third round would consist of groups of eight; and so on.
How do groups decide what to make? Are there any problems deciding what to make? How do groups resolve the problems? Do groups have problems actually making their creations? How do they solve these problems? What happens as the groups get larger and larger? Why does the task get harder?
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Language Arts); Community Groups; Families.
What You Need: Chalkboard and chalk, or large sheet of paper and marker; dictionary.
Conflict -- from issues of sharing toys to disagreements about rules with parents -- has a real impact on the lives of children. Children can explore the meaning of the word "conflict" as a group (i.e. a class in school), with their family, or in a mixed group of old and young. Everyone will have their own perspective on what conflict is and can bring their own experiences to the discussion. Older adults sharing personal conflict memories appropriate to the age of children can be very effective.
Beliefs and attitudes about conflict come from many sources: messages we get as children; behaviors modeled by parents, teachers, and friends; attitudes presented by the media; our own experiences with conflict. What do you think when you hear the word "conflict?" Look up the definition in a dictionary. The word conflict is derived from the Latin conflictus meaning "to strike together."
Write the word "conflict" on the board or in the center of a large sheet of paper. Draw a circle around it. Everyone can then brainstorm what conflict means to them.
Try to elicit specific examples, memories, and personal stories about conflict. What kinds of conflicts have you been in? You can have a conflict within yourself, between two people, within a group, or between groups. Ask about conflicts with parents, teachers, friends, and between countries.
For each conflict example, summarize it with a general word or phrase (e.g. wars, fights, rules, parents, bothers/sisters, friends, bullies) and write the words/phrases around the central circle. Draw lines from words/phrases to join them to the central "conflict" circle. When possible, put words that are related close to each other.
You can then branch out from the words/phrases by drawing lines and writing down specifics. For example, from "brothers/sisters" there could be lines going to "using toys and games", "choosing TV shows", and "using the bathroom." From the word "fight" there might be lines to "hitting", "kicking", "biting", "pushing."
What do you see in the conflict web? What do conflicts have in common? What causes conflicts? What makes them worse? What can make them better?
Extension: Is conflict good or bad? The characters that make up the word "conflict" in Chinese mean "danger" and "opportunity." Conflict is like fire -- which can help you cook and keep you warm, but if it gets out of control can damage and destroy. Discuss how conflict handled properly can have many benefits (e.g. learning about people, learning new ways to respond to problems, building closer relationships, learning more about ourselves).
Variation for Older Children: Write a letter to an alien describing conflict on Earth. Assume the alien planet is completely peaceful and has never heard of or experienced conflict.
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Language Arts); Community Groups.
What You Need: Copies of optical illusion.
This activity can be especially powerful when done with a mixed group of children and older adults because it demonstrates to children that even adults may see the same thing very differently.
Every person has their own way of looking at things. Even when we speak the same language, we can misunderstand each other, because we can't see into other people's minds and hearts. You can't ever assume you totally understand another person or assume they understand you completely. We come from different families, have different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and have different personal experiences. We want different things from life and different things from each other. We have different dreams, wishes, and expectations.
Two people in a conflict may indeed be in the same situation -- except that it's not the same situation to each of them. Within a person's own limited perceptions, they may believe they're right. But if you look at the situation from another, wider perspective, they may not seem right. There are a number of reasons people may see the same situation differently. Context is one. Historical contexts are an obvious example of how the same situation can come to be seen differently. A limited view is another. You may only be able to see a small part of the whole picture. Another reason people see the same situation differently is related to how much information they have available. Experience is personal information that can make a big difference to your perspective.
One way to understand perspective is to think about television camera crews and producers. They have a job to do: to get you to watch their show and keep you watching it. They are notorious for choosing just those exciting moments of action that make good TV. But does what they choose to show you give you the whole story about what's going on? There may have been only a single, small fight in a huge, orderly crowd. But the TV will show the fight. One bloody head is certainly more interesting than several hundred more that aren't. So the bloody head makes it to the news. But is that "reality?"
There are two very general types of conflicts: needs conflicts (e.g. over scarce resources) and values conflicts (e.g. over beliefs about what should be, what the "truth" is, what reality is, what's "right"). Differences in values are common. Particularly when a conflict involves values, participants experience intense feelings and often seek to persuade each other to accept the opposing view or perspective. Why can't they see what I see? In managing values conflicts, however, the goal isn't necessarily to convince another person to accept your view, but to listen to and try to understand the other person's point of view, respect them as a person, and accept the reality that another may see things differently than you do. Note that you don't have to agree with someone's perspective to understand it. In the words of the Arabic proverb, "Peace comes from understanding, not agreement."
Examine the optical illusion on the next page (it's especially effective if you have two people sitting across a table from each other; place the optical illusion between them). What do you see? Does everyone see the same thing? How can you change your perspective -- the way you're looking at the picture -- to see something more? What if you turn it upside down? What do you see? How is it possible for one picture to be two things at once -- a happy police officer and a grouchy headmaster? Being able to change your perspective (i.e. trying to see a situation from another person's point of view) is key to resolving conflicts.
Now have everyone stand or sit in a circle. Choose one person to stand or sit in the center of the circle. They must face in one direction, and not move. Go around the circle, asking each person to state how many eyes the person in the center of the circle has. They must be able to see the eyes (i.e. they can't assume the person has two eyes). As you go around the circle, the answers should change from two, to one, and finally to none (for people who are looking at the back of the person's head). At what points in the circle does people's perspective change? Why? What's the "truth?" How do you know? Are some people "wrong" and others "right?" Why? How can you convince people who are "wrong" what the "right" answer is?
Generate ideas for getting a different perspective on the situation (e.g. use a mirror, person in center could move, people in the circle could shift positions, you could do research to find out how many eyes most humans have, etc.). In any conflict, you want to get as many perspectives on the situation as possible, to try to see the whole.
A great book for children -- and even adults -- that illustrates perspective is The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. Everyone knows the real story of those three pigs -- don't they? Well, in this book, the wolf gives his own version of what happened. Everyone has their own perspective.
Extension: Discuss some actual conflicts people have been personally involved in. Get the group to brainstorm possible reasons each person in the conflict acted or felt the way they did. What was each person's perspective?
Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Science); Families; Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.
A big part of conflict is emotion. The intense emotion often associated with conflict is what can make it feel so overwhelming and uncontrollable to children, as well as adults. Having the right words to describe the emotion you're feeling helps. This activity works especially well with a mixed group of children and adults (e.g. in a family, or a school class with a group of seniors), with adults leading in communicating emotions and children guessing the emotions.
How are you feeling? All too often, when we try to describe our own feelings or reflect the feelings of another person, we settle -- through habit or lack of varied vocabulary of feeling words -- for a general, all-purpose term. We describe ourselves as "happy," for example, when our emotion at that moment may more accurately be "thrilled." We tentatively reflect to another that we perceive they're feeling "sad" when the other person may in fact be feeling "rejected." When you fail to choose a word that captures your feelings or another person's feelings precisely, you also fail to communicate fully -- and you miss a chance to get a better understanding of someone else and build a closer relationship.
You might start a discussion about emotions by reading Feelings by Aliki or My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. It's important to emphasize that every human being, young and old, experiences emotions. It's part of what makes us human. All emotions are okay. There are no right or wrong feelings. It's how we choose to act on our emotions that's important.
The "Guess The Emotion" sheet is from a book I've written called Science Is.... It's huge -- filled with over 450 fun, easy-to-do activities, projects, experiments, games, puzzles, and stories. I find that science -- which is really all about exploring the wonders of the world around us -- is one of the best ways to bring young and old together. You're never too young or too old to enjoy that "Hey, wow!" feeling of discovery. For more information on the book (and the special discounts available for schools and community groups), visit www.bigsciencebook.com or contact The Communication Project (1-800-772-7765 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Follow the instructions on the sheet to play Guess The Emotion. You can use the "ABCs of Feelings" sheet for ideas for different emotions.
Variation: Go through the alphabet, one letter at a time. People can take turns portraying an emotion, while everyone else guesses.
Connections: Schools (Health, Social Studies, Language Arts); Families; Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.
What You Need: Paper; black, red, and green pencil crayons and/or markers.
An African proverb says, "If you are never angry, then you are unborn." We all get angry sometimes. It's only human. The challenge is how we choose to handle our anger. People can learn to express their feelings without losing all control, and without being destructive or hurtful to others.
This activity can be done with a group of children, a mixed group of young and old (e.g. a family or a school class and a group of older adults), or a group of adults (e.g. a seniors group which spends a lot of time together). It's a good activity to encourage communication and understanding, which strengthens relationships. It lets other people know what might bother you (and helps them be more considerate of your feelings). When doing this activity together with adults, children also come to realize that adults have to work at managing anger just like they do. We all need to think about what makes us angry and how to deal with different intensities of anger in different situations. All of this can take a lifetime; many adults are still trying to master these ideas.
Anger is a physical and emotional reaction to a perceived threat. In prehistoric times, people faced many dangers (like big, fierce animals) so the body developed the ability to generate extra strength and energy to stay and fight or quickly escape the danger. With this fight-or-flight response, adrenaline increases dramatically, the heart pumps faster, blood pressure rises, and blood flows faster. The body releases chemicals that make muscles tense, stronger, quicker, and prepared for action. These chemicals can also cause people to lose some of their self-control.
A destructive reaction to anger is pushing, kicking, hitting, or damaging property. Destructive anger hurts people, relationships, and ultimately yourself.
A constructive reaction to anger separates feeling the anger from acting on the anger. Anger is part of a chain: something happens, you have a belief about the event, which leads to a feeling about the event, which leads to your response. You can't change what happens, but you can do something about your beliefs, feelings, and responses. Which is why identifying your triggers -- things that start the anger chain for you -- is so important. A trigger is like a red flag in front of a bull. It makes you want to charge! If you recognize the things that make you angry, you can be on alert so that your beliefs, feelings, and responses don't get out of control.
Everyone in a group can share specific examples and memories of what makes them angry. It's okay to bring up examples when you didn't handle the anger particularly well. Admitting that and then discussing other options lets everyone learn from the experience. What are your red flags? What makes you really angry? You can get angry with people, things, situations, behaviors, gestures, or words. You might want to rate things on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 is "annoys me" with 5 "irritates me" to 10 "enrages me").
How do you react when you get angry? How do/did your parents react when they get/got angry? What are destructive ways to handle anger? What are constructive ways?
Some ideas for handling anger constructively: stop and count to ten; punch a pillow; scream into a pillow; go for a walk; run around the block; skip rope; dance; kick a can around outside; throw marshmallows into the sink; bang a drum set; tear up some old newspaper; get a towel and twist and strangle it; draw a picture of how you feel; write a letter; have an imaginary conversation with the person you're angry at.
Write your name in the center of a sheet of paper. Surround your name with words or phrases in red flags. These are the things that make you really angry, your triggers. The red color should now also remind you to "stop" and be alert.
Then, from each of your red flags, draw a green line outward with green words or phrases with ideas about how you can handle that anger constructively. Green means "go" ahead and do this.
Now you have a handy reference sheet that lists what makes you angry and how you can handle that anger constructively.
Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Social Studies); Families; Community Groups.
What You Need: Piece of furry fabric and piece of sandpaper (each should be at least 6 x 8 inches).
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Do you believe that saying? Why or why not? Words have tremendous power. They can make you feel good or make you feel bad. They can serve to inspire cooperation or to incite violence.
A group of children can do this activity, but it is also a very effective intergenerational activity -- with adults and children sharing their experiences and practicing the magic words.
Start by talking about communication in general. Who is the person you most enjoy talking with? Why? What kinds of things do they say or words do they use? Who is the person you have the most trouble talking with? Why? What kinds of things do they say or words do they use? Who do you feel comfortable talking with about your problems? Why?
Effective communication that helps to solve problems includes: listening; summarizing what has been said to ensure you've understood correctly; trying to take the other person's perspective; asking questions to get all the relevant information; and speaking respectfully.
One of the keys in speaking respectfully is using "magic words." Magic words usually have the word "I" in them. When you use the word "I" you take ownership and responsibility for what's being said. You don't blame someone or something else, but try to honestly share your perspective on a situation.
The ultimate magic words are, "I'm sorry." When you say them sincerely, they're almost guaranteed to help resolve a conflict. You admit that you may be in the wrong or that you feel badly about what has happened.
Another important phrase is, "I feel." There's a big difference between saying "I feel very disappointed when someone lies to me" versus "You lied to me." A "you" message puts the emphasis on the person and on blaming. Instead, focus on the problem and on solutions. An "I" message lets you talk about and own your own feelings, and give a reason for your feelings, which helps another person understand your perspective.
A three-part message structure that's effective: 1) I feel (describe your feelings -- furious, disappointed, upset, etc.)... 2) when (describe behavior or what happened)... 3) because (why it upsets you; the effects)....
The message can also be effective when you add on what you would like: "I would like (what you would like to happen or change)..."
The word "you" is like sandpaper. Some words are abrasive and rough. They can hurt and make people react defensively. When you use the word "I," it's like soft, furry fabric -- pleasant and something people are more open to (i.e. people like to touch it). There is an old proverb, "Soft words win hard hearts."
Make up some conflict situations: someone has stolen your pen; your brother has broken your favorite toy; a friend took credit for something you did; your mother didn't take you shopping like she promised she would. You can also use real personal examples from the group. Pass around the piece of sandpaper. Each person can say an example of a "you" message while feeling the sandpaper (e.g. you took my pen, you're wrong, you lied to me).
Then pass around the piece of furry fabric for everyone to feel. Each person can practice the three-part message: 1) I feel... 2) when... 3) because....
Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Social Studies); Families; Community Groups.
What You Need: Magazine; stopwatch; chalkboard with chalk, flip chart with a marker, or piece of paper and pen.
Brainstorming involves freeing your thinking. It's about creating and dreaming up different options. When we're engaged in a conflict, sometimes we believe there's only one way for it to turn out. But most often, there are many options you can choose from -- if you're creative enough to come up with the options in the first place. The key is not to get stuck in one way of thinking.
When you're brainstorming, the idea is to come up with as many different ideas as possible. Be outrageous! It doesn't matter whether the ideas are silly. During the brainstorming session, no one is allowed to say anything negative about any of the ideas. Just come up with as many as possible. At the end you can evaluate the options and decide which one you want to choose.
You can practice this brainstorming approach on some imaginary situations. Then you'll be ready to use the approach when you're in the middle of a conflict. Some imaginary situations: How can you make friends at a new school? What can you do if you want to go to one movie and your friend wants to go to another one? What can you do to help find a lost puppy? What can you do to help a neighbor who is an older adult and has some trouble moving and walking? How can you cheer up a friend who has had a bad day? What can you do to get better grades in school?
To practice the brainstorming approach, everyone can sit in a circle. State the problem. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible for solving the problem. One person can write down all the ideas generated. Hand a person in the circle a magazine. The person should open the magazine to the first two-page spread. The idea in this brainstorming approach is to use something you see on the pages -- a word or a picture -- to spark an idea for solving the problem. Each person has one minute. Then they pass the magazine to the person beside them, who flips to the next two-page spread and has one minute to come up with another idea. Keep going around the circle.
For example, let's say a group is brainstorming ways to get better grades in school. The first two-page spread in the magazine has a photo of a house, so the person suggests spending more time at home studying. The next two-page spread has an ad for the "McMichael Gallery," so the person suggests asking his Uncle Michael for help with his math. The third two-page spread has the word "highway" on it, which reminds the person that they could do some extra reading on the bus on the way home from school.
When the brainstorming session is finished, you can evaluate each option generated -- what are the strengths and weaknesses of each option? -- to choose the best one or ones.
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Language Arts); Families; Community Groups.
What You Need: Copies of the twenty conflict cards (photocopy them onto heavy paper and cut them out).
What are the ways we can deal with conflict? There tend to be three general approaches: avoidance (pretending it doesn't exist); confrontation (threats; physical, verbal, psychological violence); and problem-solving (i.e. negotiation, a dialogue between two or more people in order to arrive at an agreement that meets the needs of everyone who is involved). The first two approaches are destructive, while the last one is constructive.
Each of the twenty conflict cards has ideas for resolving a conflict constructively by focusing on problem-solving. The ideas are applicable for use anywhere -- in families, at school, in the workplace.
Discuss each card. What does it mean? When might using the idea be most appropriate or helpful? Most of us use different techniques in different situations and with different people -- parents, children, siblings, spouse, friends, peers, people you don't know well, members of other racial/religious groups, protestors, people in authority positions or above you in status, people below you in status.
The conflict cards are reminders and inspiration for resolving conflicts. The next time you're trying to resolve a conflict, shuffle the conflict cards and, without looking, pull out one card. Does the idea help you resolve the conflict? If not, pull out another card. Another option is to spread out all the cards in front of you and pick up all those cards which give you ideas for resolving your current conflict.
A final note: It's always helpful to have a ritual at the end of resolving a conflict that signals the resolution and makes everyone feel good about it. Shaking hands is a common ritual.
Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Social Studies, Art); Families; Community Groups.
What You Need: Copies of conflict cards (photocopy them onto heavy paper and cut them out); larger sheets of paper; pencil crayons and/or markers.
Make up conflict comics that show constructive ways to resolve conflicts.
Fold a sheet of paper into eighths. Unfold it and make a comic strip in the eight squares. Tell the story of a conflict -- one from your imagination or one you've been involved in (e.g. with your brother/sister, parents, friend). It's fine to use stick people, or you can get more elaborate if you wish. Show how the conflict starts, including what people say and do, and then how it is resolved constructively.
Use the conflict cards for ideas on ways to constructively resolve the conflict in your conflict comic.
Connections: Schools (Health, Social Studies, Language Arts); Families.
What You Need: A corner of a room that is set up to encourage peacefulness (see ideas below).
Schools can use a "Peace Place" as an area students can go to resolve conflicts. Families can set up a corner where children can go to calm down, talk about problems, and resolve conflicts. The peace place is NOT a "time out" area. It should be a safe, familiar, cozy area that encourages peacefulness and has items for helping children deal with feelings, collect their thoughts, and resolve conflicts constructively.
Some ideas for your Peace Place (children should participate in decorating the Peace Place and choosing items):
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Language Arts, Art); Community Groups; Families.
What You Need: Examples of war toys/games; paper; pencil crayons and/or markers.
The holidays are a time of year when toy ads are everywhere and stores are filled with every toy imaginable. How many of these toys encourage violence?
Collect or write down the names of at least ten toys/games that are war or violence-related (you can go to a toy store, use a catalog, or go to a toy website on the Internet).
Describe each toy/game. What kind of play does each encourage? What values does each reflect? Why are war toys/games so popular? What problems do you think there are with war toys/games? Is it all right to play war? How might this make you think about the world and resolving conflicts? How have toys and games changed over the years (children can ask parents and grandparents)?
What's the difference between a violent and nonviolent toy/game? Choose a toy or game and redesign it to make it nonviolent. Draw the new toy/game on a sheet of paper. What are some of the problems you encounter in redesigning the toy/game?
Why is it important to have toys and games that encourage peace?
Connections: Families; Schools (Social Studies, Health).
What You Need: Large jar or container; slips of paper; pen/pencil.
A conflict jar is a great way to prevent minor disagreements from growing into major disputes. Children can write out concerns, complaints, and problems on slips of paper and put them into the conflict jar for discussion at a set time. For example, a family might have a meeting every week to discuss a variety of items, including items in the conflict jar.
All the guidelines for resolving conflicts discussed in this section apply to resolving conflicts from the conflict jar. Each slip of paper should be taken seriously and discussed openly, honestly, and with respect. This is a chance to model effective conflict resolution and let children know their concerns are valid. It also gives children the power to do something about their problems.
You can implement a conflict ritual during meetings for people who are really angry about something. Before you dip into the conflict jar, ask if anyone is really upset about anything. If someone says yes, everyone in the group has to guess what the person is angry about. Ask the angry person a series of questions, to which they can only answer "yes" or "no." This helps people to master calmly dealing with anger, a step at a time. It also makes the angry person feel more cared about, listened to, and understood as they are the focus of attention. It can help create trust. The anger may be diffused as the angry person feels other people are working hard to find out what's wrong.
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Health); Community Groups; Families.
What You Need: Copies of the "Peace Award" certificate.
Each year, Nobel Prizes are awarded for outstanding achievement in five original areas -- Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature -- and a sixth area of Economics (the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was added in 1968). The Nobel Prizes were established in the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and inventor. He was involved, with his family, in the manufacture of explosives. He also invented dynamite. A man who believed in peace, he was concerned about the potential destructive uses of the explosives he had invented. So, he established a fund to provide the annual awards.
Under the terms of Nobel's will, the Peace Prize is judged by a committee of the Norwegian parliament. Each recipient is presented with a gold medal and a monetary award (close to $1 million). The awards were first given in 1901. They are not given every year, and from 1940 to 1942 no awards were made.
Former US President Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002. The prize was awarded for Carter's "decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." During his presidency (1977-1981), Carter's mediation was a vital contribution to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Through his Carter Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2002, Carter has since his presidency undertaken very extensive and persevering conflict resolution on several continents. The Nobel Committee concluded its announcement of the award by stating, "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development."
Why not give your own award for peace? A Peace Award is a great way to praise and recognize children for their efforts to act in peaceful ways and build peace. Families might choose a different family member each month. Schools might choose a new recipient every week. You can post the award with the child's name. If you're running an intergenerational group, older adults will be thrilled to help choose an award recipient based on behaviors they've seen children exhibit during their interactions with them.
Who's in the running to receive the award? Depending on the age of children, someone who has remembered to consistently say "please" and "thank you," someone who didn't lose control and instead remembered to count to ten, someone who shared a toy or book, someone who helped another person with a problem or mediated a dispute, etc.
Recipients can be chosen in a number of ways. A parent, grandparent/grandfriend, or teacher can choose an individual. Everyone in a group can vote. Or, everyone can drop nominations into a box when they see someone else do something that contributes to a spirit of peace, and then a winner can be pulled from the box.
Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Language Arts, Art); Community Groups; Families; Seniors Groups/Facilities.
What You Need: Paper; pen/pencil; pencil crayons and/or markers; items symbolic of peace (as described below); boxes (to put gifts in); wrapping paper; scissors; tape. Optional -- several large boxes; poster-sized paper; food and drinks for a party.
This is a wonderful way to bring young and old together. It's a great intergenerational activity for schools, community groups, families, and seniors groups/facilities. You get people together to make the "gifts," and then everyone comes together again to unwrap them.
At the beginning of this activity, you might want to evoke the appropriate mood by reading a book like For Every Child by Caroline Castle, I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Prayer for the Twenty-First Century by John Marsden.
Start by talking about peace. What does "peace" mean to you? What would the world look like if there were peace? Part of making peace happen is envisioning it.
Finish the sentences "I feel free when..." and "I feel peaceful when..." and "I can work for freedom and peace in the world by..." What are your wishes, hopes, and dreams for yourself, your family and friends, and the world?
Now think about the one gift you would give the world if you could to make it more peaceful? Think carefully about your answer. This is the ONE thing you think is MOST important to make the world a more peaceful place.
Create a drawing, or write a poem or story, about that gift. Or, get an object that symbolizes your gift. For example, if your gift is enough food to feed everyone on the planet, you might choose a bag of rice.
Once everyone has created their gifts, wrap them up in brightly colored paper. Put them under a Christmas tree. Or, for a more generic presentation, construct a special Peace Tower (make the tower out of several boxes and arrange the gifts to cover the tiers created by the boxes). Enjoy the beauty of the wrapped gifts until the New Year.
Select a date at the beginning of the New Year. On that date, everyone gets together again for a special Peace Party to unwrap the gifts. Learn how to say "peace" in different languages. People can greet each other using the new words they've learned. You can also create and put up posters with the words as decoration for the party. Some examples:
Spanish -- paz (pahs)
French -- paix (peh)
German -- friede (FREE duh)
Italian -- pace (pa CHE)
Russian -- MNP (meer)
Swahili -- amani (ah MAH nee)
Swedish -- fred (frehd)
Hebrew -- sholem (shO lum)
During the party, each person unwraps a gift. Share what the gifts are and why they were chosen. Which of the gifts do you think you can make come true? Brainstorm ideas that the group might be able to pursue throughout the year. Young and old working together can make a world of difference.
From Holiday Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2003