Student Leadership Team
We live in interesting times involving many types of conflict. And one of the most important jobs of educators today is to teach our children how to handle conflicts that arise in creative and constructive ways. Too many forces in our culture reinforce the opposite message, that conflict is somehow bad and something that we must avoid. Or, that all conflict must result in a winner and a loser. But without the development of effective democratic skills we know that our young people are less inclined to want to be involved in finding peaceful resolutions to their conflicts. They can't practice what they haven't learned.
Good schools and committed educators must find ways to teach children to handle conflict more effectively than just avoiding it if we wish to have our young people grow up to be active and involved participants in our representative democracy.
The nexus between conflict resolution education, and the goal of Green Woods Charter School to instill a sense of environmental stewardship through civic engagement, has been realized through the implementation of a conflict resolution program known as Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings through Attorneys, Children and Educators).
Project PEACE is the peer mediation training program that has helped our Student Leadership Team (SLT) learn the skills of effective mediation. This program is made possible by a partnership between Green Woods Charter School, the PA Bar Association, the Office of the Attorney General, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge and Former PA First Lady, Midge Rendell.
In this era of high stakes testing, Project PEACE offers a valuable means of providing real-life civic learning in our schools. The skills learned help work to reduce conflict and violence by teaching our students how to discuss and mediate disagreements peacefully. A long tradition of research suggests that giving students more opportunities to participate in the management of their own classrooms and schools builds their civic skills and attitudes. Thus, giving students a voice in school governance is a promising way to encourage all young people to engage civically.
Peer mediation does not replace discipline—it enhances it. Students involved in the program learn firsthand that there are consequences for their behavior and that they must accept responsibility for their actions as well as any consequences that follow.
An Active Role
In addition to providing an opportunity for our students to play an active role in our school, one of the primary benefits of Project PEACE is that it teaches our students that conflict is an inevitable part of life that they should not fear or avoid. Through their direct and ongoing experiences in helping other students mediate disputes, our SLT students see how conflict can create opportunities for growth and development.
After going through Project PEACE mediation training, our students reported that they now feel, "much more confident in their ability to handle conflict." How many adults do you know who wish they felt that way?