How do we want to “live” together this year? Treat each other? Be treated? And care for our school and the environment?
These are questions Eastern Mennonite Elementary School students explore together at the beginning of each school year, signing classroom agreements and the elementary school peace pledge.
Adapted from materials created by The Institute for Peace and Justice, the pledge invites students to commit to: respect self and others; communicate better; listen; forgive; respect nature; play creatively; and be courageous.
Erika Gascho’s fifth grade classroom compared the school-wide pledge with their own classroom agreement, which featured concepts the students brainstormed together the first week of school. Many of the concepts overlapped. Their agreement said they will:
- Include others
- No racism
- Listen to each other
- Be fair
- Respect each other
- Be kind
Before each class had a signing ceremony in their classrooms, they gathered by Zoom (since it was raining outside) as a full school. Fourth grade students led the classes in American Sign Language as they went over each concept in the pledge.
Gini Trotter, K-8 counselor and peacebuilding teacher, shared a children’s book, “The Peace Stick,” by Nidhi Misra. The fictional story is based on the practice of listening with attention and sharing with intention held within many Indigenous cultures. The story is about two Indigenous boys of America who have an argument about one stick, which leads them to learn about a different stick — a special stick — which they learn to use as a talking piece to make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard. EMES students practice respectful listening in circles and develop peacebuilding skills.
“Practicing these skills is one way we learn about Jesus at our school,” says Maria Archer, K-8 principal. “We believe Jesus wants us to respect and get along with all kinds of people, even when we disagree.”
Read about past EMES peace pledge activities here.