Park Terrace Elementary students make a pledge for peace

Students marched around Park Terrace Elementary School, Spring Lake Park, pumping their fists and chanting Oct. 4.

Students in Jodine Jones’s second-grade class flash peace signs by the peace pole. Photos by Olivia Koester

Students in Jodine Jones’s second-grade class flash peace signs by the peace pole. Photos by Olivia Koester

“Park Terrace for peace!” and “We are peace!” they yelled, smiling, laughing and holding up posters they had made for this occasion: the rededication of the school’s peace pole.

Park Terrace became an International Peace Site in 2012, and a peace pole was dedicated outside of the building that spring and again in the fall.

This year, after Park Terrace and Woodcrest elementaries merged, half of the students had never seen or heard of the peace pole, so the school’s peace team, five educators, planned a rededication for the first all-school meeting of the year.

“ … The earth’s our home, it’s ours to share, so let’s be peaceful everywhere,” the students said in unison, prompted by music teacher Ron Jay at the school assembly. These words were part of a longer peace pledge that was recited at the initial dedication and again Oct. 4.

Park Terrace is one of 400 international peace sites – schools, churches, businesses, etc. – where people promise to follow five peace action steps:

1) Seek peace within yourself and others

2) Reach out in service

3) Protect the environment

4) Promote intercultural understanding and celebrate diversity

5) Be a responsible citizen of the world.

The peace pole is meant to be a reminder of the school’s commitment to observe these action steps.

Donated by community members Joe and Lori Zook-Stanley, the pole reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in four of the school’s most spoken languages: English, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

“It’s to show not just us at Park Terrace, but the whole world that we care about peace,” Jay said at the all-school meeting.

Jay is a member of the school’s peace team, along with first-grade teacher Lynda Bergeron, EL teacher and academic specialist Alison O’Brien, counselor Sarah Reed and student support specialist Lynnette Tewalt. These five organize the all-school meetings, incorporating peace education.

Many educators in the district attend peace education sessions through World Citizen, a non-profit organization based in Minnesota that introduced the Peace Site Program.

Park Terrace’s designation as a peace site is helpful for everyone at school, O’Brien said. “I think it builds a common acceptance and understanding among the staff and the students,” she said. “It helps you think outside of yourself.”

For the assembly Oct. 4, each class decorated a peace poster.

Many classes brainstormed ways students could demonstrate peace and highlighted those in their artwork.

“I can show peace by playing and having fun with others,” one student wrote.

“I can show peace by not committing crimes.”

“I can show peace by cleaning up our community.”

The peaceful possibilities seemed endless as each child’s ideas were framed uniquely.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]

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