Creating Peace Zones

Copy of dj ambassador

As I read over articles about key thinkers who advocated peace in the classroom I immediately began to examine my own practices. When was I modeling peace for my students? How could I go further? Where could I implement new strategies that kept a balance between learning, calm, and honoring the child? I still am processing all of these ideas but have found inspiration in Dewey, Freire, and Montessori.

Montessori advocated a learning environment that followed the interests of the child. In Montessori classrooms children are given choices to develop their intellect, moral sense, and fine motor skills. As a former Montessori teacher, I found that facilitating good choices is a healthy way to help children learn to self-correct behaviors. Not only is it peaceful, but it is empowering for the child. I use Montessori language in a traditional setting to help children make positive choices with phrases such as, “You may walk,” or “I’d like to remind you all to use gentle voices.” 

To take this further I created a zone for peace. It contains a bulletin board with a small display beneath. At the top of the bulletin board is a poster of Dean Bernal swimming with JoJo the dolphin. In the center are three posters. One says, “What do friends do?” The second says, “What do bullies do?” The third, and most important asks, “What have I done to resolve conflicts peacefully today?” Below these posters is a small table with the Peace Cards I designed and discipline cards. Peace cards are index cards where children write and draw positive choices for conflicts. After creating the card the child has the choice of keeping it as a reminder of good choices, adding it to the class box, or sharing it with the child he/she has had a problem with.  

My discipline cards also have a positive component. During the first week of school, my students write their names on the back of a 5″ by 7″ cards with drawings of those things that bring them joy. That way, whenever a child needs redirection he/she is reminded of those parts of him/her that are unique. If a child does need disciplining they fill in three columns on the opposite side: date, problem, and what to do positively  next time.

I have found having Peace Cards next to discipline cards creates a place for children to feel calm. It is here that they know they are safe, respected for their individuality, and empowered to make good choices.


Peace Mediators in Seven Easy Steps

Fighting? Bullying? Gossip? When I started to see lots of problems on the playground I decided it was time to try something new. But I didn’t want kids to feel like I was just adding another rule. I decided to empower kids with a program that they could manage, organize, and man.
We called them Dolphin Mediators.
What are they? Dolphin Mediators are a group of student volunteers who help to keep our school calm. After I train the kids in assertive language, they memorize my script and roll-play situations. Once they seem comfortable with everything from stopping a bully to helping little ones take turns, they are approved to be recess monitors. Then they walk the playground, clipboard in hand, helping our school keep the peace.

If you’d like to give it a try at your school the lesson goes as follows:

Objective: Students will learn positive communication techniques to help other children resolve conflicts peacefully on the playground.

Materials: Clipboards, reward tickets, pens, Dolphin Mediator Script.

Background: Dolphin Mediators are a group of students who have volunteered to act as a go-between for other kids who might be having a conflict. With a faculty advisor, they use a prepared script to help others learn to take turns, communicate with “I feel” messages, and come up with win-win situations. At recesses, they offer advice, guidance, and rewards to those who resolve conflicts peacefully.

1) Ask for volunteers for friend mediators. Tell the students that they must be approved by a teacher to be accepted.
2) Once there are volunteers invite students to attend training.
3) At the training review the three different types of communicating
a) Passive = Giving in to another. (lose, win)
b) Aggressive = Attacking another. (lose, lose)
c) Assertive = Be firm with the desired outcome. (win, win)
4) Next, tell them that the goal is always to help others engage in win-win.
5) Also, advise them that this program is only for mild disagreements. It is not their job to be involved in situations where they could be hurt, such as breaking up fist fights. Leave those to adults.
6) Rehearse the following script with the volunteers:


AMBASSADOR 1: Hi my name is__________
AMBASSADOR 2: And my name is________
ALL TOGETHER: And we are Dolphin Mediators.
AMBASSADOR 1: We are here to help you solve this issue. But before we start there are few guidelines.
AMBASSADOR 2: Yes. First is that the only person who can speak is the person holding the clipboard. (Holds up clipboard.)
AMBASSADOR 1: Each one of you will have a turn to share your problem, then we’ll try to help you so both of you feel better.
AMBASSADOR 2: But remember that our goal is always to have a win-win situation.
AMBASSADOR 1: Now tell me what happened.(Passes clipboard to one child. When the first child is done takes clipboard back.) Now it is your turn. (Repeats with clipboard pass.)
AMBASSADOR 2: Now let’s try to find some win-win solutions where you both feel happy.(Asks each child to come up with a solution that makes both happy.


AMBASSADOR 1: Congratulations you just took a dolphin detour.
AMBASSADOR 2: And here is your ticket. (Fills in names and gives them ticket explaining it will be used for rewards later.)

7)  Send children out to the playground.

I’d love to hear how things go. Let me know what happened at your school with Dolphin Mediators.