Dozens of specially-trained students from Munn’s Public School are using their nutrition breaks for more than eating. They are using them as a way to build relationships among all students and instil a lasting quality of respect for each other.
The Oakville school has started a program called Kelso’s Choices, which involves 65 Grade 5 and 6 students becoming trained as Peace Keepers. Kelso’s Choices is a conflict resolution and conflict-management curriculum for elementary students based on the premise every child is capable of becoming a peacemaker. The Peace Keeper students, working in groups of two or three, essentially provide guidance for all students to practice Kelso’s Choices to help students resolve their differences amicably and responsibly.
Peacekeepers adhere to a schedule that outlines what part of the school property they are responsible for, either the playground or field. When nutrition break is held indoor, due to bad weather for example, they are assigned classrooms to visit.
Prior to becoming a Peace Keeper, students sign up for and undergo a half-day of training with teacher Karming Charrey, Kelso’s Choices coordinator. One of the key parts of training is teaching students the difference between a big problem and a small problem. If Peacekeepers came across a big problem, a staff member is notified to handle the situation. The primary role for Peace Keepers is to handle and diffuse small problems, like helping settle a dispute in a game. Details of the problem are recorded, including how it was resolved, and then submitted to Charrey. He looks over the notes to ensure the issue was handled correctly and to determine if further staff member intervention is required.
Charrey says a vast majority of problems are small and handled very effectively between students. This is why he and parents are so supportive of the program.
“Teachers and principals can work together to make sure students are getting along as best as they can,” he says.
Peace Keepers thoroughly enjoy the satisfaction the role provides.
“I feel good because we are leaders of leaders,” says Emily, in Grade 6.
Says in Grade 6 student Anna: “I feel good someone has the confidence to ask me for help.”
Carol Thompson, Principal of Munn’s Public School, says the program is about older students developing key leadership skills.
“It's great for the kids to see they are making a difference; it’s empowering; they're doing the work, we guide them; that is an amazing feeling for them. Instead of getting into a dispute, take a step back and use Kelso’s Choices. If the kids don’t buy into it and take ownership, it’s not going to work well. The key is this is something we believe in.”
Charrey says gaining leadership skills are crucial at the elementary school level. Younger students look up to Grade 5 and 6 students and watch how they behave.
“I feel really good, as a teacher, helping students be leaders in the community,” he explains. “Some of these Peace Keeper leaders are going to go on to bigger and better things in high school. I have Peacekeepers come up and say, ‘Mr Charrey, we love doing this.’”
Learning intervention strategies to avoid major conflict is another great skill to develop, Thompson emphasizes.
“That‘s the important piece,” she says, noting Peace Keepers wear their yellow vests and carry their logbooks “very proudly”.