Peace Art 4 Syrian Refugees


 Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society provides small grants to support people who work with children in doing projects to promote peace education with students from pre-school to Grade 12.  This year there have not been a lot of requests for grants but one funded project has made a difference throughout the entire school community and in the lives of the Syrian Refugees who it has touched.  It is called #WelcomeSyrianRefugees.  It started as a peace art project and has grown to incorporate many literacy outcomes.  Check out the Inquire2Empower blog for the full story.



Welcoming Syrian Refugees


Students at Tecumseh Elementary School are putting the final touches  on their Welcoming Syrian Refugee    Art project with local artist, Larkyn Froese.

The project started on Human Rights Day on December 10th.  Students initial focus on the right of all children to go to school, snowballed as they learned about the plight of Syrian refugees.  A grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society helped them to create peace art from  this wooden suitcase that arrived in Canada in 1947 with a family starting a new chapter of their lives in Canada after World War II.  Splatter painting reminiscent of Jackson Pollock represents difference people coming together to create a thing of beauty.  Flags from the students country of origin and welcome messages adorn the other surfaces.

This art was part of a larger project that also included writing and participation in a United Way Welcoming Luncheon for Syrian refugees.




J-DEF Peace Project in Chicago


a post by Sandy Murray

image imageStayed in the remarkable Pilsen neighbourhood in Chicago’s Lower West Side. The people of Pilsen have transformed their community with huge and dynamic mural installations. This J-DEF Peace Project 3-part mosaic mural was created by Chicago teens to honour Jeff Moldonado Jr., an innocent victim of gang violence. Jeff, also known as hip hop artist J-Def, tragically lost his life at 19 years of age. He sought to bring peace to his neighbourhood through his music. Check out the J-Def Peace Project website at  and The J-DEF Peace Project Facebook page. A very powerful way to inspire us (children and adults alike) to nurture peace in our neighbourhoods!


Bee A Friend


Feeling a little lonely or left out or overwhelmed on the playground.  “The Bee A Friend” bench was Julie Petrynko’s answer to this problem sometimes facing students at, during or after school hours.  She is a school counselor at several schools, Tecumseh being one of them.  Much of her time is spend engaging students in problem solving and social responsibility instruction.  One group of students worked with the school counsellor to learn about making and keeping friends.  They decided they could teach their newly learned skills best if  they had a meeting place where kids could come to find a friend or find something to do.  They talked to the vice principal about a spot and they decided that the old benches by the playground in the process of being removed, needed a facelift and would be a good spot.  Lucky for them, the grounds people decided the benches needed to be replaced when the playground was taken down.  Students decided on the theme and put in a proposal to Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children to get funding for the project.  They were successful. When the weather turned sunny and the playground building area was fenced off, it became the perfect time to paint.

The grand opening of the “Bee a Friend” bench was at the same time as the community build playground opening.   Grade 7 students and supervision aides introduced it to the Kindergarten students at recess.  Then it was opened up to everyone at lunch time.  It was a busy place.   Bubbles and sidewalk chalk were very popular.  The Telus soccer balls donated by girls’ soccer coach, Carrie Serwetnyk, and the happy face frisbees were also very popular on opening day.

Students at Tecumseh are lucky because they now have a new playground and fun activities to do.  They don’t think anyone will have trouble finding someone to play with NOW!  But if they do, they have somewhere to come to and someone to reach out with a smile and an idea.

Big Puppets Speak out for Justice


Kate McCabe and Nancy Greenall were the successful recipients of a Culture of Peace 4 Kids grant. Please read their blog post which details their project. IMG_3958

December 10th is the next date to apply for a Culture of Peace for Kids Grant.  Go to the Acts of Transformation:  From War Toys To Peace Art Site for details.

A group of Self-Design students met for a total of 3 hours per week for 11 weeks to study Justice and participate in Big Puppet making classes. Below is a write up of some of the major concepts that were covered during that time.

We started off with a deep conversation to come up with a definition of what justice is. Comments around ethics, point of view, different belief systems, definition of right and wrong, societal influences, lack of communication… were part of the discussion. They each wrote out different scenarios, events, issues etc. that they felt either represented justice or injustice. We looked at the Jean ValJean dilemma and discussed that scenario – the law and flexibility, learning a lesson, rehabilitation, effects of time, compassion, fairness, same or different laws for rich and poor… It was great, and difficult, for them to see that things were not always black and white and that there were many complications and factors in determining justice.

Learners did a web quest to research different kinds of governments and discussed the pros and cons of each before identifying specific countries that were examples of each. After generating a list of justice issues students had a debate. This led to conversations about conflict resolution strategies and reflective listening skills.

When it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day we discussed who he was. Several of the learners heard Dr. King’s son speak at We Day the previous year. We listened to Dr. King giving his famous “I have a dream…” speech. This prompted discussions on racism. We read another book called “Sit-in”. This book told the story of the four black college students who started the sit-ins at Woolworth’s department store and how this action was loving resistance that brought about significant change as taught by Dr. King. From there we looked at the differences between racism, discrimination and bullying and they began a Venn diagram identifying those actions. We also looked at samples of micro aggressions and what they can look like as well as how they could deal with it when they witnessed it.


We also did a survey to see which social justice issues they wanted to pursue and it was decided that we would spend about two weeks on each of the following –racism, poverty, child labour, and environmental issues rather than deal with one or two in greater depth.

Interactive and cooperative games were included along the way to reinforce various issues and provide real life examples of the concepts covered.

Learners also selected a community issue that they felt needed attention and then made a plan to take action. One group of students collected food and raised money to buy coats for a nearby food bank and shelter. The other group made and sold cookies and popcorn to buy toys and supplies for a local animal shelter.

While the Justice classes were going on the children were beginning to make their puppets. It was a very time consuming project. They broke into groups and decided on an issue for their play. Developing their scripts gave them opportunities to use their conflict resolution skills and reflective listening. Once the puppets and scripts were completed they continued practicing until the performance day. On the last day of class parents, siblings and guests were invited to come and watch as the groups performed their skits and spoke about their chosen justice issue. It was a great culminating event!


Aboriginal Images of Strength and Hope


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission met in Vancouver, British Columbia from September 18-21, 2013 as part of it’s countrywide discovery process into the facts and impacts of the policy sending Aboriginal students to Indian Residential Schools over the course of 120 years.  It is a difficult thing to teach students that it was a practice to remove First Nation children from their families and communities in order to strip them of language, cultural identity and traditions.  As a student growing up in Vancouver public schools and Canadian universities, I wasn’t introduced to this reality.  It wasn’t until I worked with Latash (Maurice) Nahanee and middle school students in Coquitlam, doing an exchange with Aboriginal students in Ottawa, that I began to understand the enduring horror of the experience that touched the lives of so many fellow Canadians.

I was fortunate to cross paths with Jeanette Stark in the spring of 2013.  She has been active in social justice as a member of at St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church and as a former administrator in the Vancouver School Board for many years.  She facilitated the project funded by the Canadian government to bring understanding of this part of our history to students in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver.  This project would serve two purposes.  It would enable something to be given to participants in the Truth and Conciliation march taking place in Vancouver, in the tradition of the potlatch that was declared illegal for so many years.  It was also a way for students to demonstrate their learning.  She facilitated the distribution of little wooden tiles, much like scrabble tiles, to churches, schools and daycares for children to demonstrate understanding after lessons about the impact of Residential schools.

Phyllis Simon at Vancouver Kidsbooks has developed an amazing collection of Aboriginal titles that were invaluable in helping school libraries to provide powerful texts to explore the topic.  I was teaching a grade 4 class at the time with a teaching partner.  One side of the tile was to reflect the images and parts of home that you would take with you as a child needing to endure through difficult circumstances.  The other side of the tile was to reflect the feelings that you’d have if you were in that situation.  The discussion and the artistic images on both sides of the tiles were powerful.  Children were “walking in the moccasins” and empathizing with the Canadians and in some cases relatives, who had traveled the difficult path of living through and where still engaged in the recovery process.  On one side of the tiles were strong representations of Aboriginal culture, family and homes that would help to sustain hope in the hearts of these children.  The other side represented the loss, fear, sadness, confusion and anger that these children must have felt.  This was one of the more powerful projects I have done with students.  Engagement, as well as academic and social learning, was significant.  It was moving to complete the Truth and Reconciliation walk and to be handed a tile.  It helped me gain more insight into one aspect of the gifting at Aboriginal celebrations but also the significance of what we were doing as a community to bear witness to this tragic part of our history.

The British Columbia Teacher Federation took this project a step further and teachers covered the entire surface of a canoe with the tiles decorated by BC students.  It was on display during the Truth and Reconciliation process in Vancouver. 

  tile canoe20140317_130754_resizedTandR2



Peace Park


Peace Park in Whistler, B.C. is a beautiful showcase for student art focused on creating a world filled with beauty and peace.  It is located on the walk from the Lower Village towards the Upper Village, just before the covered bridge.  Student created tiles have been painted and mounted in the little park with seating areas overlooking the river, mountains and trees.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if all communities had beautiful spaces like this to focus their attention creating peaceful contexts.


Pride Parade In Vancouver


The Pride Parade in Vancouver is going mainstream. It has been embraced by many in the city as a voice of acceptance of our shared humanity. Judgment based on sexual orientation is relegated to the same status as judgment based on skin colour, gender, culture or religion. Tomorrow my husband and I are proud to have the option to march with floats and people in my school board, my church and my Amnesty group. I’ll be tweeting images by children participating in this model for a peaceful society @CarrieFroese