The Art of Peacemaking

Newton School students express what it means

ABOUT TOWN
5/23/2011

Reprinted courtesy of the Recorder, Greenfield MA

GREENFIELD — What does peace mean to you?

When this question was posed to students at Newton School in Greenfield, they first answered by creating lists of what peace means to them, lists which included words like love, hope, kindness, care, recycle and friendship.

Students were then asked what a peacemaker was. Their lists expanded to: “taking care of others who are not as fortunate as us,” “taking care of our school,” “keeping our planet clean,” “friendship” and “someone who makes you feel good.”

The lists still hang on the walls as a reminder.

Then, in late January, two members from the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice read all 10 classes at the school the book, “Listen to the Wind,” by Greg Mortenson. In it, he tells the story of how he traveled to Pakistan to climb the rough, mountainous terrain, got lost and was taken in and cared for by residents of the town of Korphe.

Mortenson returned a year later to build a new school in the town.

The students also analyzed literature, video footage and engaged in discussions that focused on recycling, aid to Japan and Haiti, caring for each other, caring for those who are less fortunate and taking care of the earth.

Then, in Tina Clark’s art classes, the students were given the task of creating artwork that showed them engaging in acts of peacemaking. The end product was an art exhibit called “Roots of Peace,” which is now on display at Green Fields Market, located on Main Street in Greenfield, until June 1.

The students created three, 4-by-3-foot mixed media compositions.

Nine-year-old Destiny Kraft, a third-grader, created a small version of herself picking up trash. “I am trying to make peace and love for the world so no one hurts anymore,” she said during one of the art classes.

Clark said the kindergarten and first-grade students painted the background of the murals and the second- and third-grade students put them into the composition as peacemakers. They created small images of themselves using tag board, cloth and colored pencil.

The students glued themselves into the composition as individuals involved in acts of peacemaking, such as helping a peer, bringing water to a first aid center to help the victims of the earthquakes in Japan and planting a community garden “so that no one in our town will go hungry.”

Shelby Cutting, 9, made little hearts to symbolize love. Shelby said the project is important “because it can give people ideas on how to be nice to people.”

“If you show peace, we will get along better,” said 9-year-old Cheryl Ven. “If you are nice, you will bring peace if you are nice, the next person will be nice.”

“It is important for everyone to be peaceful,” said Cheryl.

“I think (the project) is important because if you have peace on earth, things will be a lot easier and we won’t have to worry,” said 8-year-old Kyle White.

“I believe that the students have a better understanding of what peace is … not just a peace sign or flowers,” said Clark.

“Peace is what we give.”