A Warrior for Peace

A couple of years ago two classes at a South Dakota Alternative High School got involved with The Bead People.  Over several weeks the students, ninth graders, built 160 Bead People to use as a give away for the students, teachers, and staff at their final picnic for the school year.  The project was initiated by a Restorative Justice person who fell in love with The Bead People project.

What was so interesting to me was what actually happened with these students who have had so much difficulty fitting in and making it in a mainstream classroom.  They are a spirited, rebellious, creative . . . and often wounded bunch.  There is a lot of anger, but when we would show up and lay out trays of beautiful beads, all of that spread-out wily energy would find its focal point in the creative act of building a new Bead Person.

Creating—the process of—is an act of peace.  I think there is something so vitally important in this single statement.  It is so obvious we often miss it.  Even the toughest of young men in our group were drawn into creating.  One young man’s Bead Person was such a work of art that I asked if I could have it.  (See image.)

The dynamic human urge is a creative, vibrant energy that WILL OUT.  The energy itself does not care what it creates as long as it is creating.  It will be a constructive force or, lacking guidance and direction, a destructive force.  The energy of creating and the energy that directs learning are the same.  Humans just plain like to figure things out.  Our brain-based friends would explain to us in great detail that challenging creative or learning tasks that are just hard enough to make us stretch and reach actually expand the neural networks of the brain.  The tree-like structures, dendrites, are forced to stretche their finger-like structures out to connect with others of their kind.  New learning connects with previous learning in an exciting and expansive way.  And not only that, when the brain is engaged in this way, it is flooded with feel good endorphins.  Can you imagine?  We actually get “high” from creating and learning new things.

This brings me to a big question (and I like big questions).  My goal this year is to create several lesson plans that could be used in the classroom by teachers or group leaders of different levels.  My dilemma is this.  How can I create activities that do not “teach” peace and tolerance for others but have students engage in and experience the act of peace.  I want students to learn more about their own endless reserve of creative energy and the dynamic urge to learn that IS an act of peace when we engage it.

I think children must feel beat over the head with what we think they should learn and know.  These 2X4 clunks have become a barrier to the natural human love of creating and learning.

  • Outdoor play is now EXERCISE
  • Eating good food is now NUTRITIONAL TRAINING
  • Family fun is now QUALITY TIME and DIALOGUE
  • Natural Curious Inquiry is now STUDY TO THE STANDARDS
  • Learning is now PERFORMANCE

I want the Bead People to be a strong example of and activator for creating, learning, peacemaking, and not just another club that “teaches tolerance, anti-bullying, or global politics. I have a few ideas and could use your help to discover others.  Here are my main lesson planning guides.

  • Use Storytelling to engage, share, expand
  • Get Hands On with The Bead People projects
  • Find some music and dance to add to The Bead People projects
  • Use The Bead People as a stepping off place for new learning
  • Create lessons that build bridges of connection to self, family, earth, community and the global family.

Those are my ideas.  I’m already putting some of them into action.  I would love your ideas and thoughts and activities to add to The Bead People peace project.  And naturally, if you don’t have yours yet, you need to hustle into the store and get one.

I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

Jamie Lee

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