Giving Peace a Chance

In honor of International Peace Day, students can learn about the challenges we face in the world.

By Cathy Neushul

row of flags

Having a world free from war, and focused on peace, is an objective that we all desire. However, it’s important for kids to understand that this goal is not easily achieved. In honor of International Peace Day on September 21st, you can have your class discuss the concept of peace and identify the challenges that make this ideal difficult to attain.

Learn About Current Events

Before delving into a discussion of areas in the world that are involved in wars or are threatened with violent outbreaks, you should have your class do some research. They can use newspapers or websites that feature international news as a way to find out about current events. You can have your class work in groups to list countries or areas currently in the news and identify the problems faced. Afterward, they can share this information with the class. As countries, conflicts, wars, or violent unrest are named, you can use a map of the world to identify the location and add a short description of the specific problems the area faces. 

Once you have a list of at least ten countries in which peace is threatened, have individuals pick one topic and delve more into the issues involved. Make sure to tell your class that they should identify the leaders in the country, the opposition groups, some examples of violence, and any interventions made by the United Nations, the United States, or other countries.

Debate the Issues

The United States has sent American troops into several countries in the past decade. Whether or not to involve Americans in foreign conflicts is something that is debated each time the idea is raised. Your class can have their own debate based on whether or not the United States should get involved in particular conflicts. Pick several countries involved in wars, conflicts, or threatened by violence, and have your class divide into teams to debate the pros and cons of military action.

As a class, you can discuss whether the teams made convincing arguments in support of their side of the issue. This is a great way to get your students to understand that the issues are complex and that there are no easy answers.

Give Peace a Chance

Another way to explore the topic of peace is through learning about the men and women who have worked to prevent violence. The Dalai Lama is just such an example. You can have your class read his writings and watch videos of his talks. He is a fascinating person who has a lot to say about the ways to achieve peace in our lives, as well as in the rest of the world.

International Peace Day Can Be Celebrated Throughout the Year

Even though the United Nations has named a particular day to celebrate peace, this isn’t a topic we should only consider once a year. As part of students’ ongoing education, you can have them bring in articles that discuss problems throughout the world on a regular basis. For example, someone might be interested in focusing on women’s rights in Afghanistan. While the treatment of women may not necessarily lead to war, it can lead to violence, and is definitely a threat to peace. He/she could conduct a year-long project and report back to the class at the end about what they learned. In addition, he/she could highlight the ways different organizations are working to help solve the problems. Whenever there are threats to peace, there are always groups trying to do what they can to help.

International Peace Day Lesson Plans:

Resolving Conflict

Pupils discuss conflict and the types of problems that are caused by it. They also talk about the ways that communities can respond to conflict in both positive and negative ways. After they have delved into the concept of peace, they write a persuasive essay advocating ethical behavior during a conflict.

Whose Peace

Scholars discuss the issue of peace by delving into Israeli and Palestinian perspectives regarding the West Bank. They discuss the successes and failures that have occurred in the road to peace. Additionally, they write letters to the editor expressing views of a particular group.

Learning from Peacemakers

One of the best ways to learn about peace is through finding out about the people who have been able to bring it about. Here, the class discusses the Dalai Lama and compares and contrasts his contributions to the world. They also conduct research to find out how other leaders have worked to bring about peace.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Summit

This is a great lesson to help illustrate how difficult it can be to find a peaceful solution to a problem. Pupils discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue and develop a persuasive argument for a given position. They also practice conflict management and negotiation skills.