A Peace Path drawn by student ambassadors represents an area in the recess yard where disagreements among students can be settled.
Fourth graders at Berlin Community School are using a simple but effective method to prioritize actions when arguments occur in the recess yard, with help from teacher Jennifer Parks and guidance counselor Marissa Furnari.
Every Friday at 10:15 a.m., fourth graders deemed Peace Path Ambassadors meet with Parks in her classroom. They are responsible for moderating peace during lunch breaks, and if students are arguing, ambassadors on duty at the time work toward a peaceful resolution.
The Peace Path was drawn by the students and represents an area where those arguing can walk out their frustrations with the aid of a friend. The ambassadors encourage deep breaths and ask why students are upset.
Kind, inspirational quotes were written above student footprints to remind others about the importance of bringing peace into the world.
“The (idea of) the Peace Path comes from the Soul Shop in California, which is a great organization who created this giant stencil,” said Parks. “The guidance counselors and I wanted to get the stencil, but it was (expensive), so we went to a sponsor within the borough … which helped us purchase it through a grant.”
The stencil was painted by the student ambassadors and Parks last month.
“The purpose of the Peace Path is to promote more peace and positive communication in our school community, as well as in our world,” Parks explained. “As our students grow up, we want them to take these skills with them.”
Students Giuliana Palumbi and Luke Polillo spoke about the positivity of their discussions and how “our conversations help people,” said Palumbi. Polillo echoed that by saying, “Our (conversations) help people be happy, not get into fights and not be sad.”
Student ambassador Anthony Falasca said the Peace Path serves as a visual aid in resolving arguments.
“If someone has a conflict, we can guide them down the Peace Path and hopefully their problem gets solved with our training from Mrs. Parks,” he noted. “We guide them through and have them express their feelings … Then they leave happily.”
Student Cooper Miranda discussed a situation where students in the recess yard came to him while he was on duty and the situation was resolved.
“We always ask permission before we walk them down the Peace Path,” he noted. “At first, (one of) the kids said no, but then they changed their minds and we walked down the Peace Path together.
“You could tell that they changed their mind and were kind of smiling …” Miranda added. “It really helps, I can tell. For some people, it doesn’t, but that’s okay … Everybody is different.”
Diana Vrabli told a story about accidentally overstepping a friend’s boundaries, but relied on her Peace Path training to resolve it.
“I was at recess and told a joke to my friend, what I thought was a joke,” she recalled. “But it was actually rude … One of the ambassadors walked down the Peace Path with us. At first, we were mad at one another, then at the end, we were both happy and friends, completely forgetting about it.”
“I think one thing that is very helpful is that a lot of our challenges happen during recess,” said Furnari. “Then (students) come back into the classroom and the issues are not fully solved. Then it is hard for them to focus.
“I think (with) being able to solve the problem right then and there, students are able to continue on with their day, not having their focus (somewhere else).”
Berlin Community School wants to extend Peace Path ambassador roles to other grade levels after success this year.
The full list of students involved in the pilot program includes Caroline Hansen, Santino Carbonaro, Emersyn Herbert, Roshni Shah, Gemma Miller, Jaslyn Rivera, and Avery Harper.
Parks and Furnari acknowledged the help of former Principal Kellilyn Mawson in providing for the program and helping it grow.