Peace Day at North Queens School
February 23, 2009
Friday the 13th may be unlucky for some, but at North Queens Rural School there was a much more positive energy in the air.
On Feb. 13, the school held its ‘Peace Day’, which involved the entire school from Primary to Grade 12.
“It shows peace can happen, it can work if you’re willing to try,” said student Nicholas van Dyk, one of the organizers of the day.
The idea for holding a Peace Day was born out of an anti-bullying workshop the South Shore Regional School Board put on in Nov. One teacher from the elementary level and junior/senior high level, along with three students from the school, attended the workshops.
They also heard from Hetty van Gurp, founder of Peaceful Schools International and whose own son died after a bullying incident in 1991.
“At the end of the day, they challenged us to go back to our schools, and do something to promote peace and anti-bullying,” said teacher Mya Uhlman.
The other teacher in the group is Julie Ramey, and the students, also on the Social Justice Committee, are van Dyk, Katelyn Mansfield and Maggi Labrador.
So the group of five started meeting every week, brainstorming ways to share what they learned with the school. They realized to achieve their goal, they would need more than just an afternoon or an assembly; they needed a whole day.
The group also had a reason for picking Feb. 13 as well, tying into Peace Day.
“We chose the day before Valentine’s Day on purpose, thinking Valentine’s Day would be a good day to promote peace,” said Uhlman.
In the morning, the school heard from keynote speaker Frank Meuse, a former chief of the Bear River community, who spoke about conflict resolution. He had the students sit in one circle, and burned sweet grass in a smudging ceremony for the students.
Students were split into Grades Primary-6 and Grades 7-12, and mixed within the two groups. The younger grades learned different words for peace, heard the story of Ant vs. Bully, and made peace lanterns. Older grades could choose their sessions, including a talk on cyber bullying from Const. Laura Cormier, helping create a wood carving representing peace, and creating a Medicine Wheel.
One of the more ambitious sessions was the Paper Cranes Challenge, where the goal is to create 1,000 paper cranes and send them to the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan. Grades 7-12 took part in this exercise, hearing the story behind the challenge and learning how to create them.
“We want to carry this on by having the 7-12s come in and make it with the elementary students on a different day, so that we’ll end up with a 1,000,” said Uhlman.
The whole group agreed the day went very well, and a positive energy filled the school.
Ramey has nothing but praise for the three students who put the day together, commending their hard work and dedication.
Two weeks prior to the event, they met every day to get ready, and when school was cancelled on Feb. 12 they still came in and put most of the day into preparing the event.
“These three students have been amazing, meeting every Tuesday at 8 a.m. before school to plan for this,” she said.