Physics and Peace Education

(Reposted from: Riyan Setiawan Uki. Media Indonesia, May 23, 2022)

by Riyan Setiawan Uki
Physics Teacher, Sukma Bangsa School, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

Peace education promotes the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values ​​necessary to bring behavioral change that will enable children, youth, and adults to prevent conflict and violence, resolve conflicts peacefully, and create conditions conducive to peace (Fountain, 1999). In peace education, knowledge is taught, such as the comprehensive concept of peace, the causes of conflict and violence, and the philosophy of nonviolence. In addition, peace education teaches essential skills for living in peace, such as reflective and critical thinking, communication, and decision-making skill. Peace education also instills peaceful attitudes and values ​​essential to be internalized by each individual, such as self-respect, respect for others, concern for the environment, and justice (Castro & Galace, 2019). School is one of the places that can be used to campaign for peace education. The learning process in schools to implement peace education is holistic and tries to transform students’ cognitive, affective, and active dimensions (Castro & Galace, 2019). This illustrates that peace education can be taught in various school activities and subjects. Values, knowledge, and peace skills appear in subjects in the form of material or topics delivered as well as in the student learning process. So then, what is the form of implementing peace education in school subjects?

Peace in various subjects

In the case of Indonesia, so far, there is an assumption that peace education can only be taught through a few subjects. Religious education is one of the subjects that is often associated with peace education because all religions contain teachings about living in peace. Another subject that is often associated with peace education is social science. Social science contains several topics, such as social and violent conflicts that provide examples of non-violent actions, international institutions that teach peacebuilding efforts, and social interactions that study human interaction, the factors that cause conflict, and how to prevent it. The last is civic education, a subject that teaches themes related to peace, such as the application of social justice law, democracy, tolerance, and respect for human rights.

Other subjects apart from the three subjects mentioned above are often difficult being seen as having relation to peace. In fact, through an in-depth study, peace education can also be found in other subjects, such as physical education. For example, physical education teaches the importance of physical fitness, a form of peace with oneself, and sportsmanship, an important value in peace. In other subjects, such as Indonesian and English, peace can be taught through narrative texts containing messages of peace in reading activities. Finally, in mathematics, when teachers have difficulty relating material to peace, peace education can still be carried out through the learning process that encourages the ability to think critically and creatively, another essential skill for peace.

Teaching peace through physics

One of the subjects that may never be imagined to teach peace is physics. Many people think that physics is a subject that only teaches concepts, formulas, and arithmetic, so it is challenging to teach peace through physics. As a physics teacher, I want to show that physics can be used to teach peace.

In the straight motion topic, students learn that an object will not have a change in velocity if the object has zero acceleration or is not moving, while objects will have a change in velocity if the acceleration has a value or the object is moving. Through this concept, I teach students that peace will not progress if it is not done thoughtfully. Peace will move forward and succeed if the values ​​of peace continue to be implemented. On the other hand, if negative things such as violence are carried out, peace will not be achieved.

In the straight motion topic, students learn that an object will not have a change in velocity if the object has zero acceleration or is not moving, while objects will have a change in velocity if the acceleration has a value or the object is moving. Through this concept, I teach students that peace will not progress if it is not done thoughtfully. Peace will move forward and succeed if the values ​​of peace continue to be implemented. On the other hand, if negative things such as violence are carried out, peace will not be achieved.

Black’s principle is another example. Black’s principle states that the amount of heat released by an object with a high temperature will be equal to the heat received by an object at a low temperature so that thermal equilibrium occurs. Through the concept of the Black principle, I conveyed to students that when we apply the values ​​of peace, these values ​​will also be accepted by others, and a balance of relationships between individuals can be created. When we have more abilities than others, we must not insult but help those who have shortcomings so that justice can be achieved.

I also taught peace through physics class project activities, for example, when students made a simple thermometer. The process of making the thermometer raised various critical and creative questions, one of which was when students asked why we had to add water even though we already used alcohol in the thermometer. This question is a form of students’ critical thinking skills, a skill that is very important to dig up information to solve problems.

I explained that the purpose of adding water to the thermometer was to prevent the alcohol from expanding quickly. If we only use alcohol, the expansion will occur so quickly that it is difficult to read the thermometer scale. On that occasion, I also invited students to imagine alcohol as a person in conflict, heat as a trigger for conflict, and expansion as a conflict escalation. The heated alcohol represents the people in a conflict that are ‘stirred up’ so that the tension between them increases. I then explained the addition of water to represent the role of a mediator who helps deescalate the conflict. So, through this simple thermometer-making activity, students learn conflict resolution knowledge in addition to learning physics.

There are still many knowledge, skills, and values ​​of peace that can be found in physics, and it all depends on the teacher’s critical and creative thinking skills in finding and linking physics subject matter with peace education. In addition to topics that can be linked to peace education, teachers can bring up peace education through learning methodologies. Integrating peace in every subject and teaching it to students will bring closer the realization of a peaceful society.

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1 thought on “Physics and Peace Education”

  1. Qamaruzzaman Amir

    thank you for sharing. i appreciate your philosophical approach. you have given me more ideas.

    i am also a physics and peace educator. my approach is focusing on the physicists themselves: my learners explore the dilemmas that physicists face, the way they interact with the issues contemporary to them, the values and attitudes they embody. For example, when we study Einstein’s energy-mass relationship, we learn of the evolution of Einstein’s thinking when it comes to nuclear energy and using it as a weapon of mass destruction.

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