Haggerty School in Cambridge, MA is an urban pre-K-6th grade school of about 260 students. Haggerty offers a multicultural learning environment where students learn through mutual respect and cooperation. About eight years ago the school began a Peace Unit focusing on places in the world where children do not live in peace. This two week teaching unit has grown into a school wide semester-long study, culminating in the awarding of the “Haggerty Peace Prize.” From October 2006 until January 2007, students have studied Afghanistan.
This year a group of P.E.A.C.E. members toured the campus and were delighted by the obvious good cheer and energy of the students. We enjoyed surveying the classrooms, the children’s peace garden and viewing an array of “peace kites,” some inspired by the colors and patterns of Afghan kites, some linked to local community groups, and others adorned with peace poems to illustrate the power of words.
Our guide, Haggerty School’s Library media Specialist and P.E.A.C.E. member, Karen Kosko, described the components of the school’s unique Peace Unit. First the school selects the region or nation to be studied through consensus. The students and staff network to find speakers who either are from the country/region or who have visited there. Many of the speakers bring artifacts for the school’s mini-museum. Some of the sources for speakers are ethnic restaurants, academic contacts, neighborhood committees and P.E.A.C.E. members such as Betty Burkes and Cathy Hoffman.
Second, the families are encouraged to nominate an adult who works for Peace to receive the Haggerty Peace Prize. The sixth graders then vote for a winner among the nominations and invite him/her to come to the school to receive the award. The children get ready for the “big day” by decorating their rooms and the school with a variety of art projects. Examples from past semesters are a class puzzle where each child created one piece, postcards for peace that are sent to folks who the children think should know more about peace (see example), doves, peace flags and posters.
The students also participate in fundraising and in a food drive for local charity. Sixth grade students have also worked in local soup kitchens and visited nursing homes after school. Individual classroom teachers set criteria and decide to acknowledge Peacemakers in their classroom, as well.
The Peace Unit culminates on the day when the school awards the Haggerty Peace Prize. A whole school Assembly is held in the gym, peace decorations adorn the walls, and staff, guests and the award winner gather for the ceremony. A wonderful sense of anticipation, satisfaction and affirmation reigns at the end of this semester long Peace project. The Peace Unit also provides the opportunity to learn about the annual winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. This past school year a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Booby Muller, 1997 winner with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) spoke at the assembly.
This year, the Haggerty Peace Prize winner is Dr. Charles Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs is the founder and president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, a nonprofit organization based in Boston that works to end modern-day slavery. Of the ceremony, Dr. Jacobs said, “”It was very touching . . . I think the idea that there are still black people that you can buy and sell is pretty shocking, especially to an integrated school like this, and it seems to me if you wanted to imagine an antiracist paradise, this would be it.
Submitted by P.E.A.C.E. members Karen Kosko and Sharon Davisson