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June 1996 - Issue No. #23 (p.17)

A Visit to a Spry Peace School

by Kip Cates

The Spry Peace School is located within the John Spry Community School in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The school consists of 350 students in 12 classrooms (K-12), one monolingual and bilingual class per grade.

Special Features of the School

The school's main focus is peaceful values and conflict resolution. The school:

  • integrates topics of peace across the curriculum, including literature units and lessons on peace-related holidays, peace organizations and peacemakers

  • uses techniques and materials that enhance self-esteem, encourage positive values and build life skills such as problem solving and decision making

  • issues a bilingual English-Spanish newsletter for parents which encourages families to discuss peace issues at home

  • runs a "Peacemakers of the Week" program where children are awarded certificates for peaceful actions

  • works with the Chicago Peace Museum and the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution on teacher training workshops

School Definitions of Peace

Many definitions tell what peace is not. It's not violence, war, strife or civil disorder. Here are some definitions that embrace ideas of what peace is:

1. Peace is a process of responding to diversity and conflict with tolerance, imagination, and flexibility; war is a product of our intent to stamp out diversity and conflict when we give up on the process of peace.

2. Peace is not a gap between times of fighting, or a space where nothing is happening. Peace is something that lives, spreads and needs to be looked after.

3. Peace is that state when every individual is able to survive and thrive without being hampered by conflict, prejudice, hatred, antagonism, or injustice.

Peace School Teachers and Students

Peace school teachers aim to be models for building trust, cooperation, respect, empathy, communication, responsibility and fairness. Students learn to communicate effectively and peacefully, prevent and solve problems through creative and constructive conflict resolution, work cooperatively with others, relate with empathy towards others, developconfidence in their ability to learn and solve problems, accept responsibility for their actions, understand and respect cultural differences, and respect themselves.


Here are three examples of peace lessons designed by Linda Young and her colleagues at the Spry Peace School. For more information about the school or its programs, contact the address below.

The United Nations

Children study about the UN and its goals of keeping peace, settling quarrels, protecting rights and promoting international friendship through the book "This is the United Nations" (M. Sasek). They study world flags and then design their own.

Random Acts of Kindness

Children talk about the saying "Peace begins with me", discuss the concept of "random acts of kindness" (doing good deeds at random simply because it feels good to help others) and share stories of times when people were kind to them. They then start a class kindness program where children fill out a card for each kind action they perform and count their cards each day or week. Further activities involve reading books about kindness, studying great humanitarians, and looking for newspaper articles about good deeds and heroism. Resources include "Kid's Random Acts of Kindness" (Conari Press, 1994).

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Children locate Japan on a map, learn about WWII and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, then read or listen to the book "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" by Eleanor Coerr. After each chapter, they discuss the story line, events, emotions and characters, then go on to study more about WWII or about Hiroshima Day in Japan.

John Spry Peace School, 2400 S Marshall Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60623, USA


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650