Unification News for June 1997

Peacekeepers on the Playground

Poppy Richie
June, 1997
Berkeley, CA

The Principled Academy of Hayward, CA, formerly known as the Sunshine School, is dedicated to cultivating the unique divine potential of each student and fostering each one's ability to love and care for others. Students learn leadership and pride in themselves and their school as they develop spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically.

"Peacekeepers on the Playground" is one of several projects at the Principled Academy designed to help students learn and practice leadership, good citizenship and conflict resolution.

Imagine this scenario: it is the playground at recess. A dispute arises over setting up a spontaneous dodge ball game. The two captains are facing each other and shouting, disagreeing vehemently. (Does this sound familiar?) A fifth-grader and a sixth-grader, each carrying a clipboard and wearing a bright blue tee shirt with the word "Peacekeeper" emblazoned on the front, approach the two angry students.

"Can we help you solve this problem?" they ask.

The four students retire to a nearby picnic table to discuss the dispute. Everyone knows the rules, which are restated by the Peacekeepers:

1) Do not interrupt (Each student gets a fair chance to describe his/her viewpoint)

2) No name calling

3) Be as honest as you can

4) Agree to work to solve the problem

Usually a solution is reached and the students resume their play. Occasionally, adult help is needed and the Peacekeepers know whom to ask for help.

One staff person, Brenna Iredale, researched available conflict resolution curricula and suggested the school use the one published by the Community Boards program, which originated in San Francisco. It is specifically tailored for us with middle school students. Mrs. Iredale conducted ten training sessions over a two-week period for each group of fourth- through eighth-graders, until all had been trained. The course is based on the following assumptions:

1) Conflict is natural

2) Students can solve their own problems

3) Students are responsible people

4) Conflict can be resolved peacefully

The goals of a conflict manager, whom we call a Peacekeeper, are to be a good listener, to work well on a team with another Peacekeeper, to be fair, to be a helper, to be a dependable person, and to be someone who can be trusted. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of training and experience to be able to help others work out conflicts. The Peacekeepers have a rotating schedule and take turns working in pairs during the lunch hour recess.

Students' responses to the program have been very positive. The following are quotes from student evaluations:

"It helps students solve problems without punishment. With punishment, kids might still be mad."

"It has taught me some skills that help me handle things that happen."

"I haven't been getting into as much fights as I used to."

"It helped me because I don't get as angry when someone calls me a name."

"It has helped me to understand feelings that I have, and others [have] during certain situations."

"Just our presence keeps kids from fighting and arguing."

"'I messages' are better than 'you messages' because it doesn't make the person feel as accused."

Teacher responses have been positive, too. Playground supervisors agree that conflict on the playground has decreased since the student Peacekeepers have taken responsibility to monitor the recess. Even parents have noticed their Peacekeeper children using the skills learned during the training in their relationships with family members. A fourth-grade boy was upset early in the training because the course conceptualized violence (e.g., hitting, kicking) as a choice a student might make which would result in some undesirable consequence (missing recess to write in a "Behavior Journal"). He was heard muttering to himself, "This is so stupid! Like I would choose to be punished!" A few weeks later, having internalized the training, he was overheard earnestly advising an angry classmate who felt like hurting someone, "That's not a very good choice you're thinking about."

At the Principled Academy, our greatest concern is not just what the students are doing today, but what kind of citizens they will be in 30 years. Will they be a credit to True Parents and the Principled way of life? Implementing the "Peacekeepers on the Playground" program is giving our students some important skills they will use all their lives to be more responsible and effective in relationships.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Principled Academy and the courses of study offered, please call or write to:

The Principled Academy
20625 Garden Avenue
Hayward, CA 94541
Phone: (510)293-0300 Fax: (510)782-5315

The Principled Academy is seeking a qualified, credentialed, experienced elementary school teacher, who is a Unificationist, for the 1997-98 school year. Please write or call for a salary schedule and job particulars.

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