Reflections on Peace from 1st and 2nd Grade Students

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead

Grades 1 and 2 students completed a unit of inquiry under the transdisciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet called Peace on Earth. The students are discovering that peaceful relationships are created through mutual understanding and respect. Classes are engaged in activities and lessons that cover the following lines of inquiry: causes for conflict, human rights and equality and strategies to resolve conflicts.

Lower School students have been using the book We Dream of a World, to brainstorm ideas of dreams for their own world and to explore peaceful leaders from around the world and discuss any commonalities, such as similar traits or skills the peacemakers may have had.

Students are working on reflective projects entitled “what does peace look like" and "what does peace mean to me,” in which they can share their understanding of peace and its importance in our world. LE student Colin shared, "The whole planet should have equal respect, equal rights and they should also be more responsible. If we have all of those things this will become a more peaceful planet.”

Across the division, conversations about Children’s Rights have classrooms filled  with students discussing their rights at Whitby: education, food, play time, the right to think and feel what they want, the right to have clean water and the right to be happy. Students worked on exercises beginning sentences with “I feel…” to address their emotions, and as a result, Whitby’s caring Lower Schoolers are able to listen to their peers with deeper understanding and respect.

One Whitby parent of an older student had these words to say about the impact this unit had on her child’s learning:

“The unit on Peace had such an incredible impact on my son. He spent 6 weeks fully immersed in learning about peaceful leaders. In second grade he was reading Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and under the guidance of his teachers he was highlighting unfamiliar words to that soon became familiar such as segregation, beacon, decree. As part of their social responsibility the class collected Pennies for Peace and in math they spent time counting, charting and graphing their collections. All this culminated with a special visit to the United Nations in which they met with the then ambassador to Pakistan, sang for him, gave their donation and took a tour.”

Now several years later this parent clearly recalls this unit and what an educational impact is had on her son and just like many of the other units. This is what makes Whitby so unique! The way this children learn is creative, meaningful and with real life connections at every turn.

The study of peace is a truly transdisciplinary unit that has overflowed into all areas of Whitby’s Lower Elementary division. Students painted their “picture of peace,” and classes set aside time for “serene learning,” allowing children to find peace within themselves and in their learning environment. It has given students historical perspective and exposure to literary works on figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi. The focus on peace has helped students learn to solve conflicts on their own and has given students an increased sense of self-awareness while learning they need to be responsible for their actions in order to create peaceful relationships. Reading, thinking, discussing and peace has guided students to live peacefully and spread random acts of kindness throughout Whitby

LE teachers offered these examples from the Peace Unit.

LEA has drawings with short reflections for "what does peace look like" and "What does peace mean to me", some of which are on our bulletin board as you enter the class.

  • If you don't have rights, it won't be that peaceful

  • If you don't have responsibilities it will lead to conflicts

  • Conflict resolution is peaceful because you are stopping something that is not peaceful and you are not being a peace breaker

  • All of this goes together because it creates a peaceful community

  • You have to be responsible for your actions in order to create peaceful relationships

  • When people have rights, responsibilities and use conflict resolution strategies you are able to create peace

  • If we didn't have rights, we wouldn't have that much stuff because we are not learning anything

  • We have some rights that we shouldn't be able to have like being able to have a gun (only military or police officers should be able to carry weapons); people shouldn't be able to smoke or eat tobacco (Asher said "but it's their body so people should have the right to choose"... "just like seat belts you're harming yourself by not wearing one...not others"...Aya said, "but a smoker is harming others with their second hand smoke")

  • Colin said, "The whole planet should have equal respect, equal rights and they should also be more responsible.  If we have all of those things this will become a more peaceful planet" 


  • Some students began using "I Feel…" statements as learned in the class lesson with School Counselor Rachel Shupin.

  • When we watched the Children's Rights video, we asked students to name some of the rights we have here at Whitby; students made connections to this listing things we "have" as rights such as education, food (organic snacks), play time (twice a day!) the right to think and feel what they want, the right to have clean water and be happy….

  • While reading fairy tales in our class during this unit, students made comments about characters "that was not respectful" (When the witch kept trying to kill Snow White because she was beautiful) or "She has a right to be happy" When Cinderella was sad about not having a dress for the ball.


  • Students have been connecting the peace unit words to all areas of the curriculum. When reading a fable or fairy tale many of them will say: "he/she is a peace breaker or peacemaker".

  • The students use the words 'I feel' when resolving a conflict more frequently and are also asking "how do you feel" or "What are your feelings?" when trying to resolve a conflict.

  • After the students watched the Children's Rights video, many of them showed concern for children in different areas of the world. They wondered if all children have these rights, why aren't they treated the same way?

  • This week Mrs. Phelan read the book If Peace Is... and then the students were asked to close their eyes and picture peace. The students were given a piece of card stock, watercolor paint and paintbrush and asked to create a picture with peace as the theme. We played soft instrumental music in the background, and students painted for a good 20-30 minutes. It was amazing! The classroom felt so serene and peaceful (a caring environment). Also, their paintings were amazing and so creative. The students loved it and said can we do it again. Next time we would take pictures or even a video.


  • Students talked about feeling peaceful after certain activities. We introduced the peaceful place in our room as a place they could go to calm down. Some students rearranged and decorated the place to make it special.

  • Children used the words 'I feel' when describing what upset them. When reading fairy tales the word conflict came up again, and we talked about how people can have conflicts in stories, too.

  • Children made posters about their rights, and they actually, between them all, covered many of the rights we were going to introduce.


  • Students have begun to use "I feel…because..." statements when they use the peace table to resolve conflicts. More and more students have been independently choosing to use the peace table before coming to a teacher.

  • Students have been noticing acts of kindness more.

  • Students have had a lot of discussions about the rights of children around the world and whether or not all children receive those rights.

  • As a class, we are making a Random Acts of Kindness book about a time that someone showed them that they were caring. Each student completed a page.


Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Whitby School. Sarah's mind is a stirring pot of thoughts and ideas on content marketing, blogging, photography, videography, storytelling, social media, and website optimization. Working at Whitby has inspired her to reeducate the world about education, and to spread the passion, wisdom and expertise of the school’s talented faculty and staff.