It’s been a peaceful week at Park Terrace Elementary.
So peaceful, in fact, that the school is preparing to be designated an International Peace Site.
The school is the first in Spring Lake Park District 16 to do so.
Tuesday morning (May 1) was a big event and kickoff for Park Terrace’s Peace Week for all K-3 students as they filed out to the front of the school for a peace pole dedication ceremony.
The pole is inscribed with the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written in four languages: Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, English and Vietnamese, the school’s four most spoken languages.
Room remains on the pole for future language additions.
A re-dedication will be held on Constitution Day, Sept. 17. At that time a representative from World Citizen, Inc., who introduced the Peace Site concept world wide, will be on hand to present a flag and plaque to the school.
First off, the students sat in a circle around the future site of the pole, where they started the dedication with a peace rap:
“Your voice, your choice,
Let me hear those peace words ring!
Please, thank you, excuse me, can I help you?
I’m sorry, your turn, do you want to be my friend?”
Lynda Bergeron, a member of the Peace Team, spoke:
“We all believe peace is really important,” she said. “It’s going to help all of our hopes and dreams come true.”
The ceremonial digging began. A representative from each class stepped forward to overturn earth where the pole would be permanently placed. Kindergartner Alex Keck, first-grader Gabriella Oney, second-grader Xavier Crooms and third-grader Ajwato Ongwach did the honors.
Earlier, students had written peace promises on small slips of paper, which they dropped into the hole in the ground intended for the peace pole.
“I want to work for others,” a student wrote.
“I promise to share,” wrote another.
Still another wrote, “I promise to be respectful.”
The children next recited a Peace Promise vowing to seek peace within themselves and others:
“I’ll do my part to help take care of land and water and the air.
The earth’s our home, it’s ours to share, so let’s be peaceful everywhere.”
Finally, the pole was erected, standing tall and proudly proclaiming its message of peace to the entire school and community.
Students ended the dedication ceremony shouting the peace rap one more time.
The peace pole was donated by community members Joe and Lori Zook-Stanely.
Peace Week events
Among other events scheduled for Park Terrace school’s Peace Week were:
Teachers read books in their classrooms “Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing.
The book is about how children can help others. Teachers also read Jeanette Winter’s “Wangari’s Trees of Peace” to their students – a true story about the late Wangari Maathai a native of Kenya.
Wangari attended college in America, returned to Kenya for higher education and, ultimately, became the first East African woman to earn a doctorate. She was elected to parliament and was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Later in the week, Park Terrace students participated in a Peace Walk around the school, where they carried peace posters they created. The school also hosted a fine arts fair, concert and fun night during the week.
In further preparation for becoming a peace site, classes earlier in the year created a peace book, with their photos and insights of what peace means to them. For example, in the book a student wrote, “Peace is like hugging my sister.”
Teachers also compiled their own peace book. “Peace to me is finding joy in the now,” wrote teacher Lynnette Tewalt. Guest readers last week read the book aloud to the students.
Five peace actions
Being designated an International Peace Site involves taking five peace action steps, Principal Kim Fahringer said.
The actions are: seek peace within ourselves, be responsible citizens of the world, promote intercultural understanding and celebrate diversity, reach out in service and protect the environment.
“I think that it will unify and make more public what Park Terrace has always been about,” Fehringer said in an interview. “It’s always been a school about community, about caring for others and taking care of each other.”
This is only the start for Park Terrace, which plans to add additional layers of the peace plan to its school agenda on a yearly basis. The initiative is ongoing.
“It gives them something more concrete; something to hold on to, rather than being abstract,” Fehringer said about the project.
Plans to become an International Peace Site started about one year ago. That’s when Park Terrace’s Peace Team began attending meetings and a Peace Conference through World Citizen in Roseville.
Members of the Park Terrace Peace Team are staff members: Lynda Bergeron, Kate Fandrey, Principal Fehringer, Ron Jay, Laura Leslie and Lynnette Tewalt.
So why is being a peace site so important to Park Terrace?
“Building citizens of peace starts with the child,” Tewalt said.
We need to start some place to build peace, Fandrey said.
“With all the chaos in the world, having a place to foster peace and to teach peace to children who might not have that in their lives is another reason,” she said.
In 1982 Lynn Elling, who was raised in Duluth and grew up in Minneapolis, founded World Citizen, Inc., and introduced the Peace Site Program. There are now 700 peace sites world wide, and 269 in Minnesota, according to www.peacesites.org.
Many of the sites are at schools, churches, synagogues, resorts, government buildings, and businesses. Parks and nature centers are sites as well.
Elyse Kaner is at firstname.lastname@example.org