Last week, I had the priviledge of presenting at the 7th annual Peace Tree Spirit conference: cultivating Peaceful Learning Communities. This equity and inclusive education conference was for grade 3 and 4 students across the York Region District School Board (the YRDSB has a total population of over 120000 elementary and high school students) and aimed to build leadership skills, an understanding of peace-making, global issues, equity, human rights and social justice, as well as provide opportunities for students to take social action in their local communities. Students participated in a variety of hands-on workshops throughout the day.
The workshop I presented was entitled Let’s Live with D.A.N.C.E. Through pictures and personal stories from my work this past summer in a southern Ugandan village (more to share about this experience in another blog post), students learned about the value and importance of Diversity, Appreciation, being Nice, being the Change they wish to see in the world, and Education. Each concept was explored through simple African dance moves, which the students combined together in the end to create a dance.
The students were lovely to work with; filled with eagerness, enthusiasm, and bright ideas and enjoyed relating the concepts learned to the associated pictures and dance moves. Personally, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with students from a variety of schools across the YRDSB and focus on a subject that I’m passionate about. It’s often difficult for children (and adults for that matter) to understand the complexities surrounding issues of justice/injustice in our global world, but by positively emphasizing that they can make a difference through their daily actions and by teaching them in the context of a dynamic learning environment (i.e., integrating the arts into their learning, storytelling, personal anecdotes etc…), they can begin to develop an intrinsic interest in being peace-making agents. Attached is a simple worksheet I gave the students, summarizing the key concepts of D.A.N.C.E learned in the workshop. Peace Tree Student Reflection Worksheet