Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 10, 2002
Pebble of peace ripples into school life
Rocky Mountain teacher promotes dialogue over fighting
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Rocky Mountain House
In a world ever so eager to solve conflict through war and violence, Rocky Elementary School is a rarity. Here students rarely go to their fists to resolve conflict. They resolve conflict through dialogue.
Hands are for Helping has become the motto for the younger children and Attack the Problem Not the Person is the fundamental rule for the older ones.
At the root of this peaceful environment is Rocky Elementary's zero tolerance for violence and its commitment to developing responsible, caring students. For over a decade now the school has been teaching students how to make peace, not war, through its Peace Education Program.
So successful has been the program that Rocky Elementary was recently accepted into the League of Peaceful Schools, a Canada-wide organization based in Nova Scotia that provides support and recognition to schools that have declared a commitment to create a safe and peaceful environment for their students.
Students and staff will raise their new League of Peaceful Schools flag at their annual Peace Day June 11.
Notre Dame Sister Margie MacDonell, a counsellor and teacher at Rocky Elementary, and her assistant Sister Cathy Peters developed the peace education program some 12 years ago following training at the Miami-based Peace Education Institute.
The program's purpose is to educate children and adults in the dynamics of conflict management in the school, their homes and their communities.
"The program basically teaches people how to handle conflict without using violence and it also teaches social skills, anger management, impulse control and mediation."
The course is part of the curriculum at Rocky and is taught to all 600 students from kindergarten to Grade 6 for half and hour each week. MacDonell and Peters also do in-services for teachers and workshops for parents, which include information on the nature and causes of conflict and violence.
MacDonell and Peters also do workshops for the Grade 5 and Grade 6 students who then become conflict managers in their school. "They solve 95 per cent of the problems," MacDonell says. "The other thing that's happening is students that are going to have problems come to the fore much earlier so their get earlier intervention."
So far, Rocky Elementary is the only school in Alberta offering the program, which has brought MacDonell honour and satisfaction. In 1998, the sister was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for teaching excellence and in 1999 she was named national peace educator of the year by the Miami-based Peace Education Foundation.
The common vision of the school is to solve conflict without using violence and non-violent behaviour is modelled throughout the school by teachers, staff and older students, explained the sister. "This promotes a gentleness and a peacefulness in relationships."
Rocky Elementary principal Bill Snyder agrees. "Children learn from their first day in the school that hands are for helping, not hurting.
"By Grade 5, most of the students became conflict managers and mediate conflict between other students, such as the typical squabbles and the miscommunications that occur on the playground."