Peace Education Resources for Children

Child making peace sign

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we build a foundation for peace with children. We can’t just wait until they are some magic age and use logic. No lesson works quite that easily. We have to both model peace and give opportunities for our children to play peace.

Building a peaceful foundation works best if you start when your children are babies and just shift the application as your children develop greater understanding. I gathered a few resources for you, from simple, first steps, to a classroom unit, to tools for nonviolent communication play with children.

10 Steps for Peace

The Alliance for Childhood offers “Ten Steps for Peace Education”, basic actions you can take every day:

“As the world struggles with increasing fears of war and violence, the Alliance for Childhood offers the following brief guide for parents and teachers who seek to nurture the values of compassion and good will in their children’s lives. It is easy to teach children about war. It is much more challenging to teach them how to create peace. These first steps on a path to peace require only small deeds, but will leave profound impressions.”

These ten steps can be integrated into your life with even very young children.

Peace Lesson Plans

Teach Unicef has a whole classroom unit on Peace Education for Pre-K through 2nd Grade. This includes five lessons, videos, and audio for older children.

“Peace education is a natural tool to prevent conflict and to promote social, economic, and political justice amongst a nation’s youngest citizens. It can be integrated seamlessly throughout the curriculum as a learning process, equipping young children and adolescents with confliction resolution skills, respect for human diversity, and awareness of our interconnected world.”

Nonviolent Communication for Children

The Center for Nonviolent Communication sells books and workbooks for adults as well as storybooks and puppets for children. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been an important part of how I have created a respectful, nurturing environment for my children.

Image © Ferguswang |

Mapmaking with Preschoolers

Child drawing on the Earth

Children bouncing around looking for summer activities? Preschoolers are at a stage where they start to process more information about the world around them. Much the same way I add carrots and beets to smoothies, I like to suggest delicious and nutritious activities that might stimulate the mind without my children noticing much. For 3 – 6 year old children, I suggest simple mapmaking activities. You can create a multi-step, multi-sensory activity that gets children thinking about the world around them. I like this as a summer activity because it has the potential to spark the kind of interest that can turn into a ongoing project. This could keep them engaged for the summer like Wesley’s project in Weslandia.

Importance of Geography

When I read the sad stories of the geographic ignorance of students who weren’t sure how the world around them fit together, I knew that wouldn’t be my homeschooled children. Geography and social geography have been important themes for us since my children were very young. Over that time, I have collected a lot of great resources for geography and mapmaking for a variety of ages.

By far my favorite book for children is David Sobel’s Mapmaking with Children: Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years. If you only go this far in the post, look up this book.

I Am Here!

Young childhood is a stage of curiosity and exploring but still with a focus on self. We can use that to encourage self exploration or close-to-home exploration.

Starting with models built with blocks or Playmobil or other toys, encourage your child to create a model of your house or yard. Starting with moveable objects allows the creation to be a conversation between you. This also puts the tools of creation in your child’s hands if she decides to create her own models some other time.

Then, bring out the crayons and paper. Without giving too much guidance how to do it, ask your child to draw a path through your house or your yard. By suggesting drawing a path, you don’t run into the issue of explaining what a map is—yet. Some children will draw a view from above as we usually think of maps, while others may draw from other directions. Give your child space to be creative.

  • Show the path you take in the morning when you get up
  • Show the path the dog takes when he runs into the yard
  • Show the path from you room to your bike
  • Show where each person in the family sleeps
  • Show all of your favorite spots in the yard

If your child is a little bit older and more interested in life beyond home, try applying the activity to a map of the neighborhood.

Sobel shows in Mapmaking for Children that developmentally appropriate mapmaking for children progresses through scope (home > neighborhood > community > nation) as well as through methods of representation (models > pictures > panoramas > contour and aerial maps). The more open you make your request, the more naturally your child can move through the stages of thinking about and representing the world.

Earlier this year, my son started a week long neighborhood mapping project. We used overlays so he could draw the houses once then add new, separate elements each day. Each day, he decided what new information to add. Day one, he drew houses in relation to one another from above. Day two, he added the names of neighbors. Day three, he added where children live and their names. Day four, he added trees. Day five, I wanted to encourage him to use other senses. I asked him to add sound to the map, so he walked through the neighborhood and listened for dogs barking at him then he added dogs (and their names) to the next layer. In the end, he created an interesting aerial and aural view of our neighborhood.

Mapmaking Resources for Children

If you can interest your children in place, you can use maps and geography as a starting point for a lot of other learning. Because I like scattering interesting baubles along the path and waiting to see which my children pick up, I have a lot of books on maps, history of maps, geography, children of the world, junior maps, 3-D maps, and more and more maps. And, we frequently fly around the world using Google Earth.

In addition to Sobel’s book above, my favorite resources for geography with children are the National Geographic Society’s Expeditions project, which includes lesson plans by age and by geography standard, and Mapping the World by Heart, which includes one award-winning teacher’s lesson plans for geography. Both have projects that can be adapted for age and interest.

Have a wonderful time exploring with your preschooler. If this isn’t the project of the summer, scatter more baubles and see what he picks up.

Image © Mario Lopes |

The Story of Broke

The Story of Broke is the new, short film from Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff Project. The Story of Stuff looked at the production and disposal of the stuff in our lives and the happiness it doesn’t bring us. The new movie is meant to stimulate thinking about how to pay for economic changes that support greater happiness through education, healthcare, and renewable energy and less propping up of the stuff economy.

Critiques of the movie are saying that it is simplistic, but I think it is just simple. It is meant to be an introduction that stimulates a new way of thinking. It isn’t a new way of thinking to everyone, but it is not the mainstream way of thinking, and her films are all meant just to start the broader thinking about possibilities. A lot of the stuff of our lives is so familiar that we don’t think about why we use it, how it got here, and where it goes when we are done. A 20-minute cartoon about trash might just give us a little ah-ha moment that encourages us to dig deeper. This new 8-minute movie is just an eco baby step on our way to thinking differently.

One of my favorite things about the movies from The Story of Stuff Project are the resources behind each film. Not only do they provide an annotated script for each film, they have curriculum resources for every age. If you have very young children, you might enjoy watching Loop Scoops videos with them. These are very short videos made in conjunction with PBS Kids to explore simple, age-appropriate aspects of stuff like juice boxes, Velcro, magazines, and happiness.

Annie Leonard and her project are U.S.-based, but the general pattern of how to shift to renewable energy and economies that prioritize—or even just recognize—happiness as a desired goal apply to every one of us.

Communicate to Inspire Change

Last week I wrote about teaching children about eco-friendly living and about how to share your life changes with those around you. I want to share with you one of the people who has been trying to help those concerned with sustainability to inspire change: John Marshall Roberts, a behavioral psychologist who applies science to communications that create change.

For the most part, he’s talking to the nonprofit leaders and marketers, but I think his ideas will help you see how to inspire people around you to make their own changes. In the video above, he explains a very basic distinction that will help you to be a persuasive communicator.

If you find this idea helpful, check out some of his more polished videos on inspiring sustainability in skeptics (6:18) and the history of human thinking (6:04, a beautiful video). Both videos practice the kind of communications that inspire change.

My Choices Are the Right Choices! and other ways to fail at sharing

Women sharing eco choices

If you are excited about the changes you are making in your life, you probably want to share. If you have shared your experience, you may have found that sometimes people really just don’t want to hear it. What is the best approach to sharing as you make big life changes?

Just like sharing your eco-friendly lifestyle choices with your children, we need to recognize that the choices and decisions all belong with the other person. Make sure you are sharing without judging. Don’t let your sharing become bullying.

My Lessons Learned from Birth Stories

I have become especially aware of the perils of sharing when it comes to birth choices. I love to share my experience of birth. I realized over time that just talking about my birth choices and experiences was seen by some as a judgment. I didn’t intend it that way, and I didn’t say my way is the right way, but people are especially sensitive about their choices. The result can be tense. So I am less likely, maybe even unlikely, to share unless asked, and I make an extra effort to keep myself more aware of how to share without triggering a negative response.

Also, when a woman is pregnant, she’s in the middle of her journey and doesn’t need my baggage on her trip.

Now, I’m always careful in how I ask about birth plans and expectations. I end a conversation with a pregnant woman about birth by saying, “I hope the birth goes exactly as you want it to.” My wish is sincere, and it doesn’t add my own expectations where they don’t belong.

My experience with birth stories helped me to share with greater compassion and understanding for the perspectives of others. My experience is just mine. I do want to connect with others, but I don’t want to impose my truths on them.

Your Baby Steps Aren’t My Baby Steps

Your eco baby steps aren’t necessarily my eco baby steps. I try to share my steps, and I want to hear what steps you are taking or aspiring to take. You’re out there taking steps that haven’t even occurred to me yet, and I want to know all about those as well!

Don’t let worry keep you from talking. The conversations are inspiring. We all want to take steps to improve home and world for our families. Sharing how we do that is a catalyst to new ideas and an inspiration to action. Making these connections is such a pleasure, and we develop new relationships around these conversations. So, talk!

Where to Start?

When you want to share your new choices, start by listening. Ask questions. Establish an understanding of what you share in common with others. Then share your experience where it differs after you have established a level of trust.

Sharing gently and genuinely is an art. I’m sure I fail every day, but I try again to improve.

I know from our recent customer survey that many of you want to find ways to educate family and friends without offending them. Next week, I will try to help you find those ways to share.

Image © Edward Bartel |