Nurturing Seeds of Peace Education

Stephanie Knox Cubbon

Peace Education Program Coordinator, Teachers Without Borders

(Welcome letter: Issue #86 August 2011)

twbkenyaAs peace educators, we work in an exciting but sometimes challenging field. The culture of war is seemingly everywhere you turn, and from the recent attacks in Norway to the famine in Somalia, we are constantly reminded of the immense amount of work that needs to be done to end violence of all forms and promote peace in our world. Some days, I’m sure many of us have moments of doubt and despair that things will never change. But I’m also sure that something about our work charges us with hope, fuels us, reminds us that change is possible – otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be in this field, trying to make a positive change.

What fuels my fire, what drives my work and what inspires me are the educators I have the opportunity to work with. In peace education, all you really have to do is plant the seed, and educators run with it, creating ways to bring peace education to life that I could have never imagined. Or perhaps more aptly, the seed is there – educators usually come to the field of education because they desire to make a positive impact in their communities, to inspire future generations, to make a difference in the world. Peace education is a natural fit with this inclination, and the seed of peace is already there – we just have to nurture it and allow it to grow and flourish.

Many educators have been teaching for peace in some way or form for their entire careers, and just weren’t necessarily calling it that, as Cheryl Duckworth recently wrote about in her recent blog, “You might be teaching peace if…” on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. Others search for something to change their teaching practice, and when they find peace education, they say, “That’s it! This is what I’ve been looking for.”

twbsandiegoThrough the Teachers Without Borders Peace Education Program, we seek  to either plant the seed of peace education with teachers, or more often than not, nurture that seed by connecting teachers to resources, to information, and to each other to share experiences and best practices. One such resource is the TWB Peace Education course available to download free of charge, but there are others: workshops, online courses and platforms.  The program aims to provide accessible teacher professional development on peace education, and through making the program widely available in different formats and languages, we hope to ensure that peace education becomes an integral part of teacher preparation and in-service training around the world. Furthermore, we seek to support all educators and community leaders, whether they spend their professional lives in schools, non-profits, hospitals, or at home, in their quest to create a peaceful world through education and daily living.

Since launching in November 2011, the program has been offered in workshop form in the US (San Diego), Mexico (Tijuana and Saltillo), Canada (Toronto), Kenya (Nakuru), Uganda (Lira), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Bukavu). The offline workshops have been organized at the request of and in partnership with local organizations, such as NGOs and schools. We also worked with some of them to adapt the program to their local context. In addition to bringing their motivation and interest, our partners also contribute facilitators and venues. The workshops allow for a short, intensive introduction to peace education and the creation of face-to-face connections that continue long after the workshop’s end.

twbmexicoWe have also been offering two online courses through the Nixty platform, one based on the TWB peace education program and one on nonviolence in partnership with theMetta Center for Nonviolence Education. The 8-week online peace education program is facilitator-led and involves discussion forums, weekly assignments and a final project. After the first participants graduated in May, several of them stayed on to help facilitate the next round and put their new skills into action. As the course applications grow in number (we’ve had 250 applications to date), this model allows Teachers Without Borders to offer the course to more participants while keeping the high level of personal support that we strive to offer.

The course draws participants from around the world who bring a wide range of cultural and professional perspectives and a wealth of life experiences. Not everyone is a formal educator working in a classroom – many come from NGOs and non-formal educational institutions. The diversity in the applicants shows that peace education is relevant and needed everywhere, in every country, in all settings and contexts.

While online learning might seem to present challenges to integrating peace education pedagogy, there’s a lot that can be incorporated. Dialogue is fostered on the discussion boards with the help of the facilitators. Self-reflection and creativity are promoted through the weekly assignments that also foster additional dialogue and spark practical ideas like lesson plans. Action is promoted through assignments and especially through the final project, which involves the participants in developing a peace education project for their community, classroom, workplace, or family.

For me, the most exciting part of the course, aside from getting to know such an inspiring and interesting group of people from around the world, is seeing the thought and creativity that participants put into their final projects – and then seeing them put the projects into action.  For example, one participant from Kenya, Samuel Njeri Muita, has planned a Peace Walk in his community affected by the post-election violence in 2007. Trauma remains, and Samuel sees the opportunity to use the Peace Walk as a form of peace education that fosters solidarity and promotes dialogue in the community. Another participant, John Borst, developed a tool for teachers to assess the culture of peace and justice in their school community. These are just a few examples of the fantastic work that these peace educators are doing, and shows the wide range of project ideas that they create.

I wish I could share all their stories and projects but space is running out. To amend that, we’re developing a “Postcards from the Field” section of our web site where educators can share their stories and where their voices and ideas can be heard. This is also where we will be posting all final projects. We are also working towards offering the peace education online course in other languages, starting with Spanish. We will be developing a revised version of the course that will include material that we’ve been using in the offline workshops, and adjustments based on feedback from participants. Soon we will also be launching the Bridges to Understanding program which will link classrooms together through digital storytelling around peace-related themes such as sustainability, conflict, and cultural understanding. All of these projects, and the inspiring work of the educators I work with, help me remain hopeful and committed to peace education.

Stephanie Knox Cubbon is the Peace Education Program Coordinator at Teachers Without Borders and a graduate of the UN-mandated University for Peace. She currently resides in San Diego, California. Click here for a complete bio.  Please contact her at stephanie@twb.org.

 

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