How our Childcare Center Uses the Preschool Pledge of Nonviolence
From the Summer 2002 Newsletter
by Virginia Irving
For the last 13 years, our center has assisted children in learning how to act as peacemakers, how to serve as keepers of the earth, how to appreciate the cultural diversity in their community and how to develop aesthetic appreciation for the arts. The Preschool Pledge of Nonviolence, with its seven components, integrates easily into our program and becomes another element that supports our core values of sharing, caring, helping, respecting, making friends, and giving.
We began to teach the children the Pledge in September of last year. We introduced one of the components of the Pledge each month by using various discussion techniques in circle time, reading books with peaceful themes, and emphasizing with the children the importance of listening to each other and taking time to explain how they felt. We also decided to send the Family Pledge of Nonviolence to the children's families each month.
Some of us decided to introduce the Pledge by reviewing the Gold Rule with the children. This helped them understand that it was important to treat everyone respectfully so that they would, in turn, be treated the same way. Some of the children watched the movie "Ruby Bridges" (our center's Peacemaker of the Month) and discussed with their teachers how meanly Ruby was treated. One of the children mentioned that "the lady calling Ruby names was not nice." Each month after we introduced a component of the Preschool Pledge, we spent time discussing it and allowed the children to give feedback. We spent much time in the first 3 or 4 months making sure that the children felt comfortable expressing their feelings and that they understood the language of the Pledge. We reviewed the appropriate component with the children if we saw conflict, if children refused to listen to each other of if they did not take the time to use words to express their feelings.
In May, after all of the components of the Pledge had been introduced and discussed, the children began to demonstrate understanding of all seven components. Repetition was a major reason for our success. Our teacher called it a "daily ritual" as she and the children recited the Pledge and repeated what each component meant. "Slowly," she said, "the children are learning to say what each component means to them."
When we read books with peaceful themes, the children told others to "respect the ants, don't step on them because their mothers might get sad." They began to protect more of the plants they saw on their walks and reminded other children to "not pull the leaves because you would hurt the tree."
We saw that our efforts were really making a difference when two boys, who had extreme difficulty saying how they felt, were able to sit on the Peace Bench, express their feelings to each other and resolve their conflicts. We were faced with two challenges in this process. One was getting the families to take their commitment to the Family Pledge of Nonviolence seriously. The other stemmed from children being transferred to other classes throughout the year or new students entering. Many of us had to spend time re-teaching the components.
Is the Preschool Pledge a worthwhile tool for teaching peace and justice to young children? All of us agree that it is. It provides us with a substantive teaching tool that is relevant and has concepts that children of this age can comprehend and apply to the practical aspects of their lives. We plan, however, when we begin to teach the Pledge again in September, to ask parents for monthly rather than annual feedback and be sure that all teachers are committed to using the same time frame in teaching the Pledge. Then the transition of students from one class to another will not interfere with maintaining continuity in acquiring knowledge about the Pledge. When the Preschool Pledge is used with other resources, posters, books with peaceful themes, the Peace Table/Bench, etc., is assists us in helping young children in their emerging role of peacemakers.
The Preschool Pledge of Nonviolence was used by six classes of 3 and 4 year olds and their teachers at Happy Workers Children's Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Virginia is director of the center. For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.