Art Can Bring Peace: 10 Ways

I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want creatively. Here are ten ideas to begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing with a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

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5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

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10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

Burning: An Excerpt

Once, when I was a fifteen year old camper at Catalina Island camp, I snuck out to party in the lodge with some of the counselors. They were all all older than me, some almost twenty, and in my eyes way cool. I felt honored to be included with a group that had shared so much hippie wisdom with me,  that I probably grew an inch taller in that hour.

Well,  one minute we were all laughing and chugging down Boone’s Farm sweet wine and the next there was this horrific crash as I watched the party disintegrate into a jealous punching match.

Two of our ski boat drivers, Matt and Steve were on the floor rolling over and over in a vicious brawl. I guess they pined for the same counselor, a tanned California blonde named Gail. And when she turned her attention to Steve, Matt lost it. He attacked Steve with a vengeance even my step-father didn’t have.

They rose to their feet and I watched horrified as Steve’s face swelled under Matt’s bloodying blows.  He hit the door and then bounced back like a racquetball rebounding off a court wall. Even now Matt didn’t let up but hit him again and again as Steve tried like hell to block his blows.

“Stop!” I cried leaping out of the way. I shouted again but they kept at it. Now Steve bent over and head butt Matt in the gut forcing both of them against the pool table.

I retreated to the corner of the lodge and curled up into a ball. Why won’t they listen? I thought sobbing uncontrollably.

“You guys p-please, no more. No more. No more..”

I guess my tears must have finally got through to them because a moment later they were all gathered around me.

“This is horrible. You guys should f-forgive each other,” I begged between gulping sobs, hoping my  innocent eyes  would open their hearts.

They both shook their heads.

“But it’s wrong. There should be peace in the world.” I sniffled.

“Sorry, kid. That’s just a dream. Or a song on the radio. You understand?” Matt asked.

I shook my head. No, I didn’t. And all these years later, I still don’t.

(The above is an excerpt from a new novel I’m working on. I think this scene embodies its theme. )

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Intersection House: Beginnings

When I was at San Diego State University I had countless blessings. A boyfriend I was ridiculously in love with. A major, Social Work, that I believed would help me make a difference in children’s lives. A group of playful, intellectual, stimulating friends to share thoughts with. And being accepted as one of the residents of the communal home, Intersection House.


What was Intersection House?


Hard to define. Officially Intersection House was a student residence run by Campus Christian Ministries that housed up to six students . Using a converted home next to SDSU on Fraternity Row, it was founded in the 60’s by Presbyterian minister, Dave Burnight. After working with Martin Luther King Jr. on his march to Montgomery, Dave had a vision to create a ministry of growing faith and love. With vegetarian suppers, meetings for civil rights and peace advocacy, and a community which practiced spiritual universals, they welcomed everyone’s truth.


Perfect for a Unitarian born-too-late-to-be-a-hippie like me.


I’ll never forget waiting to hear if I’d made it into I-House. Through most of my junior year I’d been hanging out at there. I’d joined a campus club called the Student Peace Education Committee to reverse nuclear proliferation which often met at Intersection to brainstorm.

This was different from other clubs I’d joined. All of the members; Ron, Richard, Chris, Margy, Gary, and others, brought vivid discourse to the group creating a rare synergy. Sitting in the living room with a tree which served as a support post, we’d look up to the branches that touched the ceiling and let them lead our conversations upwards to the canopy of our minds. Hoping that the filtered light through their leaves would shine in the decision-makers’s eyes until they saw the folly of having enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over.

The Tree as a Support Beam

Have you ever touched utopia? Feeling like you’re on the cusp of something so sublime and perfect, that God’s hand is guiding your every movement? I hope so, because that’s what this time in my life was like and it altered the way I view the world irrevocably. I’d always been an idealist believing that I had the power to effect change, but this particular period transcended my natural optimism. The Intersection hours were bathed in filtered light as if a vignetting camera were blurring every edge in soft focus..

Even today I draw upon this optimism when life’s burdens challenge me.

Later I started attending their Tuesday night vegetarian suppers and met some of the residents. I loved those nights! The evening would begin with everyone facing inward in a circle smiling at one another. Dave Burnight might start with a prayer, quote, or simple hello. Then we were asked to massage the person’s shoulder’s to our left.

And we did so.

“Now for our friends to the right,” he’d quip, a political joke. We were definitely left. Tee hee!

And after this massage we were welcomed to line up for whatever vegetarian dish the residents had spent the afternoon concocting. Shyly I introduced myself around and was surprised that everyone welcomed me with open arms.


I was blown away by their kindness.


Anyhow, between my junior and senior years I heard there was a spot at I-House opening up, and immediately applied. I was afraid that chances were slim for an insecure girl often silenced by the past but at the same time another part of me dared to dream of overcoming the fists and ridicule from childhood.

I think I bit every nail to the quick while waiting to hear. But when I learned I’d passed to the interview stage, my stomach did those crazy wow-cant-believe-it flip-flops.

I remember walking into the meeting, heart pounding and sweat beading on my upper lip. I wanted so much to be a resident but was worried I’d say something to mess it up.

I sat in the living room looking for strength in the tree that held up one wall as a group of residents and Dave asked me questions about my faith and activism. They wanted me to explain why I was worthy of such a prestigious slot. Six was the maximum they allowed in the house, and only a couple were available each semester. With a shaking voice, I answered as truthfully as I could, sure my shyness was getting in the way of my sincerity.

I wanted to say how I-House had already changed for the better. That I would work hard as a resident. That all I wanted to do was make a difference by promoting peace and fostering altruism. Instead I stuttered with every response, hemming and hawing my way through the interview.

Replaying every stupid answer, I walked away head hanging in shame. What was in my heart would forever stay hidden because the words wouldn’t come. Why wasn’t I eloquent like Ron or hippy light like Kelly?

But I knew that I could contribute to Intersection House! It was conceived for people, like me, who believe in the possibility of creating a better world. But had I convinced the panel? I had no idea.

When I finally heard, I gigglingly exhaled the breath I’d been holding for weeks. I was in! What a dream. Laurie Woodward was going to be serving Tuesday night suppers, swimming in a peace dove painted pool, and waking to Ron, Rosie, Victor, and Davida’s trilling voices.

I couldn’t wait to move in.

Intersection House, a place for dreamers and activists. For searchers and spiritualists. For Christians and Buddhists and Jews; and others just trying to figure it all out. It would be my home for my senior year.

A home I carry with me to this day.

Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Dean and JoJo: A One of a Kind Friendship

A man, a dolphin, and a friendship that spans decades. This heart-warming story has inspired millions and Kaitlin Andrews recently discovered why.  Here is her article celebrating their bond.

Click here to read article.

Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California.

 

Weaving Love: A Poem

We are the weavers of children

Whether wading, treading, or drowning

Each child needs

A lifeline

As they struggle in turbulent effluent.

 

Sometimes suspension bridges splinter

And they hang mid-air over purgatorial precipices,

Bodies flailing and thrashing.

 

And so we come,

The weavers,

Bringing strong cordage and twine of seraphic gossamer

To silence their cries and give them hope.

 

For we know the secret.

We have only to pluck the hairs from atop our heads,

Begin intertwining them with peaceful future words

And thus create:

Blankets to keep them cool on hot summer days

Or safety nets for acrophobic trapeze artists

 

With love we

Spin arks to race arid currents,

Or create buoyant suits that deflect each incoming wave.

As we weave at our numinous looms,

Our fingers deft

To find places where weft meets warp

And make fibers of

Ethereal clouds to moisten parched radices.

 

Even when eyes grow weary of patterns too subtle for children to see,

Or when aching backs and cramping forearms make for troublesome twining

And our hands become bloodied by sharp sutures from the unknowing

Or the insane,

We must endure

 

We are the weavers,

Intertwining and intersecting,

Spinning fibrous cable that children cling to

Or wrap around waists

Before plunging into cavernous incarnations

To discover,

In the depths,

A reflection of the future

A reflection of themselves

A reflection

Of the peace weaver they can become.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

You Are an Artist

Art. What does it make you think of? Is it a canvas splashed with paint or a sculpted bust? Do you think it’s important for our society and should children pursue this ethereal discipline?

Some would say no, arguing that children need reading, writing and math to compete in today’s global economy. And as a teacher, as well as an author I agree. Some of the time. I want every single one of my students to have the skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing economy.

But not by forgetting the people they are inside.

I believe that every man, woman, and child have a wondrous inside of them that is absolutely unique. It is their creative selves. And when we foster it, magic happens. That’s why I wrote The Artania Chronicles.

As a teacher, I’ve seen many changes over the years. And one of the saddest I saw was the increased emphasis on testing with less and less of the arts. It started to feel as if we were denying a beautiful part of children.  As I explored this idea, my mind began to turn art into living beings that carried out their lives in a parallel dimension.

That was the birth of Artania. There the Mona Lisa, the David, and the Thinker go about their lives. But they aren’t independent of us. For every time a human child turns away from his/her true self and denies their artistic gifts, an evil race gains power.

To me, the hunch-backed, yellow-eyed, dream-invading monsters, I call Shadow Swine, represent the destruction of that most beautiful part of humanity. That incomparable part that is our art.

Some of you might be painters whose canvases are splashed with color. Others might pursue dance or music. A few might find the art in their athleticism or acting or creating the perfect meal. Or perhaps you are a writer, like me, and love the places the words take you to.  But the cool think is that no one can act, sing, dance, paint, wordsmith, arrange, or bake exactly like you.

Because you are each an artist in your own way.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

 

The Darkness: What Bullying Did to Me

If I took the knife and cut into the veins
Would blood or tar spew forth?
If I wrapped the noose around my neck
Would breath or sulfuric acid rasp?
If I swallowed one, then two and a hundred
Would dreams or nightmares fill eternity?

These were the sorts of thoughts I had all through my teens.

For some, the teen-aged years are a carefree time of  friends, sports, and parties. Popular with clear skin and long shining hair, they throw their heads back in laughter as they revel in the wonder of youth.

I was not one of them.

Not even close. I was the shy, nervous kid watching from the shadows hoping to God I remained invisible.  Because some of those popular kids reveled in more than youth. They fed on fear, living to torment me.

Every day it was the same. “Dog.  You are so ugly you make me want to vomit. Freak.”

And soon I believed every word. Until times alone were just a replaying of every word. I was an ugly dog, unworthy of love or friendship. Why even keep living if all I felt was pain?

My suicidal ideations increased. By the time I was fourteen I was ready to steal my mother’s sleeping pills.

I remember holding the bottle in my hand imagining release from the torture. Soon I’d escape.

I took a handful, not caring what happened next, and went to the movies. Sitting alone in the dark theater I drifted to sleep.

When the lights came back up, I was alone, and groggy.  I fumbled for my purse and began the long trudge home.

I survived this incident, eventually finding my niche in college. But all too many teens don’t. They never get to learn that beyond the cruel words and pain there is life waiting.

I’d like to invite others to share their stories. Maybe, if we share what life is like in the shadows, a few kids will step out from them.

 

 

Interviewed to Address Bullying

“I’ve tried to keep my FB posts positive throughout the summer, but I can’t ignore the grim reality of young children committing suicide. Earlier this month, it was a 9-year-old Denver student named Jamel who hung himself after being bullied for being gay.” Radio talk show host, Dave Congalton, writes on his Facebook page.

“9 years old. 9.

Here’s the sad truth from the New York Times: “Jamel’s death comes amid a startling rise in youth suicides, part of a larger public health crisis that has unfolded over a generation: Even as access to mental health care has expanded, the suicide rate in the United States has risen 25 percent since 1999. Middle- schoolers are now just as likely to die from suicide as they are from traffic accidents.”

Middle-schoolers are now just as likely to die from suicide as they are from traffic accidents?????

We’re going to discuss this on the radio today (Wednesday) at 5:05 on 920 AM KVEC with local teachers Laurie Woodward and Mila Vujovich-La Barre, both of whom are heavily involved in their school’s efforts to combat bullying. I certainly don’t have the solution, but it begins with dialogue. Hope you can join us.”

And join him we did, spending two hours brainstorming with Dave and callers about how to prevent and combat this blight on our society.

For the entire interview please click below. And let’s all work together to prevent further tragedies like these from occurring.

 

Radio Interview Part 1

Radio Interview Part 2

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Thank you Dave and Mila. It was truly an honor.

In addition to hosting a popular radio show for the past 26 years, Dave Congalton is a screenwriter, producer,  former director of the Central Coast Writer’s Conference, and award-winning author.  His books include Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss, When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die, with co-author Charlotte Alexander and The Talk Radio Guest Book with co-author Deborah Bayles. His screenplay, Author’s Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco and directed by Ellie Kanner was released as a major film in 2014.

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For more information about Dave see: http://davidcongalton.com/# or http://www.920kvec.com/

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

The Talking Stick

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“The two main purposes of class meetings are to help each other and to solve problems,” Jane Nelson says. According to William Glasser, the American psychiatrist who developed Choice Theory, class meetings are a time when “the teacher leads the whole class in a non-judgmental discussion.” I read when my students one day when I was frustrated by all of the complaints my students had.

Among the guidelines were a list of dos and don’ts. For example, blame or put-downs were not allowed. These meetings were a place to solve problems, listen to the person speaking, and give each child a voice.

Just what my class needed.

The next day, I told my students to get in a circle and then showed them a wooden mallet I use for a singing bowl.

“Today we are going to have a class meeting. This is the talking stick,” I said, holding it up. “It is for taking turns. As we pass it around, each person will have a chance to share, but only the person holding it speaks; everyone is quiet and listening.”

The kids started to giggle. A few poked each other in the ribs. I expected this.

“I’ve noticed that lately some of you have had some issues with other kids in our class,” I said in quiet voice. “Many of you have come to me with problems and I set aside this time to work them out. But remember we are talking about feelings, not tattle or name call. If someone shares a concern with you, you have two choices. You either say, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ or apologize. No arguing is allowed.”

I looked around the circle and waited for focus. Many kids nodded and sat up straight, seeming to understand the solemnity of what was about to happen.

I then explained that wanted to create a better class community.  We would get to to know each other better, share joys and gratitude, and work out conflicts. “I’ll start with an example,” I said, I turning to one boy in my class, whose name is changed to ‘Cole’ for privacy.

“Cole, I feel upset about the choices you have made lately. You have thrown things,  and disturbed kids trying to work.”

Cole’s face blanched at first but then he lifted his gaze to meet mine and mumbled a sincere apology.

Recognizing how difficult that was for him, I congratulated him on his bravery  before passing the talking stick to the child on my left.  She could either share an “I feel” messages or pass. She chose to pass but I was surprised to find that many children were very open to sharing.

Over the next twenty minutes, students found their voice. Some faced those who had bullied them and said how much it hurt. Bullies apologized and thanked the speaker for sharing. Two girls, who had been arguing and talking behind each other’s backs, shared about how much they missed each other. A few acknowledged friends and thanked them for being there. Even a couple of my shyest students spoke up to say how they felt about name calling.

On the second pass around the circle I focused on problem solving having each child say; “I know we’ve had problems in the past but I’d like to__________.”  As they filled in the blanks, I was amazed that every single child said they’d like to be friends

At the end of the meeting, I thanked them all with the reminder that this was a special time for our class, not something to gossip about. They could share it with their parents but aside from that, what was said in a class meeting was private.

At the next gathering I was thrilled to discover how much better they’d been getting along. Those who had been gossiping were now sitting next to each other with their arms draped over each other’s shoulders. There wasn’t a single report of bullying.

Oh sure, there are still days when my students push it. But when things start to feel out of control, I gather everyone in a circle to remind them that they have a choice. They can continue letting the bullying and disruption continue, or they can use their words to effect change.

I have found that when children are given the right communication tools, they can rise to the occasion. I think one of my students put it best in a pen pal letter she wrote; “We used to have bullies in our class but now kids are being nice. We know we have the power to make peace.”

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

Making Peace Cards

“Ms. Woodward! She’s being mean to me!” “Mom, he went in my room again!” “Mr. Garcia, Sam won’t play with me.”  If  these outbursts sound familiar, you’ve probably found that every fix was temporary. And frustrating.  But don’t worry, most teachers and parents feel the same way.

So what to do? If you can’t fix these problems, who will?

The children.

For years, I tried solving problems for my students only to have them come back with the same exact issue a week later. Then I started to research conflict resolution, reading everything I could find on bullying and peace. I then took a course from Teachers Without Borders on peace in the classroom and began to experiment with tools for solving conflicts.

That’s when I hit on the idea of Peace Cards. Once I  started using them, I was amazed at the results.  They really work.
Why?
They empower children to come up with solutions themselves.

Here are the steps I go through with my students:

First,  you’ll need to teach them the three types of conflict resolution.

Materials:  Index cards, markers or crayons, whiteboard.

Step 1) Write the following on the board, chart paper or electronic whiteboard:
a) Passive = Giving in to another. (lose, win)
b) Aggressive = Attacking another. (lose, lose)
c) Assertive = Be firm with desired outcome. (win, win)
Step 2) Explain to children that these are the three ways that conflicts or problems can be resolved.
Step 3) Give examples of each. a) Passive might be when one child says, “Give me your lunch money,” and the other gives it freely. In this case the victim loses but the bully wins.( lose, win)  b) Aggressive might be when one child says, “Give me your lunch money,” and the other responds by punching him in the nose. In this case both get hurt and in trouble. (lose, lose) c)Assertive vocabulary is when one child says, “Give me your lunch money,” and the other responds with a strong no without resorting to name calling. (win,win)

I usually invite a student to role play these choices with me, overacting in a silly way with overly exaggerated gestures to get them to laugh about how ridiculous it is to punch a kid (for aggressive behavior) or to shrink away with a Charlie Brown voice (for passive behavior.) Then we role play the assertive no demonstrating the effectiveness of standing up for yourself peacefully.

Step 4) Write three headings on the board

Passive                  Aggressive                      Assertive

 

Ask students to give examples of when they’ve experienced each and record their responses.

Step 5) Show students examples of Peace Cards. Go over good choice examples written on the back. Then Pass out index cards and invite children to make their own positive choice for conflict resolution. They draw and write a caption for a good choice.

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Step 6) Collect. Place inside a basket or a box in a easily visible place. This will remind the       class of positive choices for the future. Tell students that if they ever have a conflict with another child in the future they can make a new card or share an existing one with him/her.

Follow up: Now whenever students have conflicts that do not need serious intervention by an adult, tell them to use these tools. Have the disagreeing children discuss how to come up with a win-win situation and then invite them to make Peace Cards about how they could handle the situation better.

You’ll be surprised at their solutions.
Good luck!

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.