Submitted by Sharon Davisson, Pacific Oaks College
For more than twenty years Stepping Stones Preschool nurtured a vibrant culture of peace among children ages three to five. Nestled in the foothills of Nevada City, California, surrounded by pine, oak and cedar trees, this small school intentionally focused on creating the foundations of peace.
The children collaborated on all aspects of their school experience. The children learned about the democratic process and collaboration through practice. During class meetings the children considered the many ways they could create a safe school. If the entire class agreed on an idea, i.e., “No hitting” or “We can talk about it”, the idea was accepted and became part of the school’s agreements. The children collaborated on creating and implementing class projects: a butterfly garden, grandparent’s visits, beaver dams, and so on. They collaborated on school lunch menus by surveying their peers and making charts of favorites and not-so-favorite foods. The children became proficient in conflict resolution skills. The children learned to recognize their feelings, express their needs and to listen deeply to their peers. Making peace wasn’t perceived as “being nice,” it was perceived as actively engaging in solving problems, being honest and helping others. The children of Stepping Stones not only shared power in the school, they also shared responsibility: power and responsibility, two essential ingredients in the foundations of peace.
As in all things wonderful, there came a time when this little school had to come to an end. Retiring Stepping Stones was a heart-wrenching experience for the owner, P.E.A.C.E. member Sharon Davisson. Turning to her good Friend, P.E.A.C.E. member Susan Hopkins, she shared her despair. Susan, a skilled and passionate quilt maker, suggested creating a concrete representation of the work of Stepping Stones by having the children work together to create a Peace Quilt. The idea was presented at a class meeting and the children got very excited. As they worked on their squares they chatted excitedly about peacemaking.
This little community of artists grew into a larger community of quilt makers. Susan and Sharon belong to a Transitions Group – a group of women who explore ways to ease and enrich the transitions of aging. Knowing Sharon’s grief about retiring her school, and wanting to help, these women became a Quilting Bee – following Susan’s directions on all the intricacies of quilting – piecing, binding, quilting and stitching the ditch.
The resulting quilt, a collaborative effort of children ages 3 – 5, and women ages 55 – 87, was entered in the county fair and won a blue ribbon. The quilt, lovely to look at and inspiring to read, remains a tangible reminder of how rewarding it can be to learn and work toward a culture of peace together.
Regan – We show the world that we love the world.
Galen – We take care of caterpillars.
Logan – We share stuff.
Elena – Sharon and the big drum.
Adryanne – We care about butterflies, we give them flowers.
Reagan – Peace and love.
Sinclaire – Sharon makes peace.
Raena – We solve problems.
Loren – We have good manners at the table, we don’t cough on the food.
Elena – Stepping Stones is a peaceful school.
Duncan – We bring peace to people and the world.
Kacey – Having friends feels peaceful.
Emma – Kindness to others brings peace.
Christopher – Peace is the world smiling.
Cy – We hug.
Jessica – We solve problems and that makes peace.