By Lois K. Solomon
Education Writer Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel
Posted September 22 2005
Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin in Palm Beach County.
Students at public schools, private schools and Florida Atlantic University dreamed of a nonviolent planet on Wednesday during the International Day of Peace, imagining a world without bloodshed, and, on a smaller scale, schools without arguments, raised voices and fights.
Students at several schools inscribed their wishes for peace on colorful pinwheels, which they spun in the wind in hopes of spreading their thoughts around the world. Others celebrated by continuing what they do every day: taking their conflicts to a student trained in conflict resolution or using language from the heart that prevents quarrels from escalating.
Lake Park Elementary School fourth-grader Kayla Coleman brought a fellow student to her class’ "peace table," where they talked out their differences over Kayla’s accusation that the boy was "showing off."
"We eat, breathe and live peace here," said Kay Heisler, Lake Park’s character-education teacher. "Every corner the kids turn, they get hit with it."
Lake Park has infused lessons about nonviolence into every classroom, every bulletin board and even pillars holding up buildings, where words such as "respect" and "trustworthiness" are painted in bold blue. To celebrate Peace Day, students sang and marched through the school, carrying their pinwheels and U.S. flags.
The United Nations established an International Day of Peace in 1981, but fixed the day as Sept. 21 four years ago. The UN wants every Sept. 21 to be a day of ceasefire. Secretary General Kofi Annan rang a Japanese peace bell, but many schools and religious institutions observed a moment of silence.
St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach chimed its bells 12 times at noon. Students read and prayed as part of the ceremony and placed their pinwheels around their school’s statue of St. Joseph.
"We can’t fix all the problems of the world, but we can start with the children being peaceful with each other," spokeswoman Mary Aperavich said.
St. Joseph’s got some of its ideas from Peaceful Schools International, a Canadian organization that encourages contests, camps, videos and setting aside times such as No Gossip Days, when students commit to thinking before they speak derisively about their peers.
During a rally at FAU, Robin Fiore, a philosophy professor, urged students to make a commitment to peace in their own lives. In an interview after the speech, she said they can start by controlling their road rage and then extend their work to end capital punishment or fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.
"They come away from a speech feeling they need to do more, but that ends up getting overwhelmed by the day-to-day," she said. "We hope to extend the emotional commitment with activities."
FAU’s Peace Studies department plans to help maintain students’ commitment with library exhibits, a human rights symposium and a December conference for high school students about envisioning a peaceful world and ways they can get there.
Lois Solomon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6536.