International School Peace Gardens (ISPG) - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1) What is a School Peace Garden?
What do you do in a Peace Garden? Why not use it as a place to solve conflicts? How about teaching some of your classes outdoors in the serenity of the garden on topics related to the things around you (trees, birds, insects, etc.)? Maybe a place for music or a play. How about a class or school project to design and build the garden?
Many schools around the world are already using their gardens for activities such as these and many other creative ideas. Your garden can be as simple as a single tree or as complex as a mini-park with several different species of plants and benches.
2) Does the Garden Have to be A New Planting?
This is up to each school. A conservation area or other grounds can be up-graded with new trees. One school called their existing trees the Peace Arboretum, then went on to develop other aspects of peace building such as food security. On the other hand, a school in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory of Canada removed the pavement from their playground and replaced it with a Peace Garden. A dozen or so local mines donated large ore boulders for their garden, and they planted small fragile arctic plants around the rocks.
3) Public Access
It is up to each school as to how they handle the issue of public access. If the Peace Garden has been shared with the community via newsletters, newspapers, students writing and music, everyone protects what they working on. We find that as the students become involved they invite their parents to visit the garden, to discuss the garden's progress and their role in it. Schools find that visitors respect what has been achieved and often participate by giving something back. The student is being trained in Tourism by being "hosts to their guests".
4) Planning a Dedication Ceremony and Other Events
There is complete autonomy with regard to the Opening Dedication ceremony. We encourage you to invite your local Politicians so that they understand the role of the Peace Garden. Mr. Jack Carroll, Ontario MPP Chatham-Kent, read a statement in the Provincial Parliament in 1998. Representatives of the IHTEC executive have been pleased to take part in dedications at many schools in Canada and overseas when the opportunity has been available. Contact IHTEC to see if we can assist with your dedication. We frequently take part in school dedications via our internet conference room and other online programs such as Skype.
Many schools use their garden daily and hold special ceremonies whenever there is an opportunity.
A number of schools now re-dedicate their Peace Garden at the start of every school year. This provides an opportunity to introduce new students and staff to the Peace Garden concept.
5) Objectives For Your Peace Garden
When you establish your Peace Garden, it is recommended that objectives similar to those shown below become part of your dedication ceremony.
Dedicate, maintain and nurture the Peace Garden as a symbol of hope for the future and our school's commitment to peace - peace with ourselves and our school community, peace within the global family and peace with nature.
Respect and promote by example. The "Environmental Bill of Rights" established by the Ontario Government on February 15, 1994 can be a good starting point.
Encourage curriculum development which includes cross-cultural understanding, environmental studies, and alternative conflict resolution.
Introduce and apply methods of alternative conflict resolution in resolving conflicts which might arise.
Use your Peace Garden for celebrations of peace and the environment, and in appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the students and faculty of your school, and community. Welcome and share your place of peace with other members of your community. Nurture the soil through scientific knowledge and environmental protection of the local eco-system. Celebrate peace through music, dance, language arts, sculpture, symbols, design and other art forms.
Extend programs that are developed to include municipal 'Peace Parks' as a link to the community.
Invite other schools in your area to establish their own Peace Gardens. In some cases, schools have donated a 'first tree' to another school in their area to get them started.
6) Maintaining the Peace Garden During Holidays
The maintenance of the peace garden in summer holidays is up to the whole school to solve. Some families in communities have taken it in turns to water and care for the garden with a roster. Schools have found that their parents have gladly stayed at home from some of their holidays to do this, because they know how important it is for their youngsters.
Knowledge re plants is readily available from your local Parks and Recreation people at Municipal level. Also contact your local Horticultural Society or Garden Clubs to help. Do explain that the students are learning about land use, food security, life zones and eco-systems, and plant species for animals and birds and butterflies etc.
7) Planning for Future Expansion
A meeting is needed between the Board's grounds maintenance team, the Principal, the staff and the local Municipality. We suggest that you develop an overall plan and then section it into modules for each development. Rather than plant the whole garden at the same time, some schools have chosen to develop the garden in stages over a period of several years. Depending on how much land you have, you will need to consider the future impact regarding soil type and drainage, access to water, access for trucks with soil, etc. Other roles for school property are part of this discussion. If land is in short supply, there are other alternatives. How about a roof garden or developing part of an existing local park into a School Peace Garden?
8) St. Agnes - A Peace Garden Success Story
The introduction of a Peace Garden at the St. Agnes school in Chatham Ontario has had a dramatic effect on the school and the community. This success of this 'Lighthouse School' has been documented in two letters from St. Agnes which we encourage you to read and learn more about this award winning project. We invite you to view the YouTube video on our Teacher Resources page.
On April 17th, 1998, the following letter was received from Larry Kearns, at the St. Agnes School, in Chatham Ontario. The letter identifies the positive impact that the School Peace Garden has had at St. Agnes, and is repeated here with his permission.
Dear Julia Morton-Marr,
The 1st anniversary of St. Agnes School's Peace Garden is fast approaching. I am writing to let you know about the very positive effect our garden has had, not only on the students of our school but the community at large as well.
The Peace Garden has had a very beneficial result with a special group of students who find it difficult to participate in large group play or for students who are looking for a place to sit and converse with their friends. Prior to the installation of our Peace Garden, the needs of these groups were not being served. We have discovered that problems on the play ground have actually declined this past year.
The other remarkable thing that has happened is that incidences of vandalism has declined as well. There appears to be an understood message that these students care about this property. St. Agnes School is a `core school' so you may be well aware of the types of property destruction that can happen in this type of setting. Our total cost for vandalism last year was $50.00.
The neighbours of St. Agnes School are thrilled with the Peace Garden. One gentleman indicated that he always wanted to live beside a beautiful place and now, because of our students, he has a beautiful place to live by. Through this project we have met many of our neighbours. It has been a wonderful experience.
There is something quite magical about the Peace Garden. For the past few months, I have received both phone calls and emails from teachers across Ontario to inquire about how to start a Peace Garden. Yes, even as far away as Woodstock, Nova Scotia. We have no idea how they got the phone number or email address of St. Agnes School, but, in the requests come and we gladly reply to each one. I don't need to tell you how much this program means to the children of the world.
When we began, the Peace Garden was looked at as something extra we could do for our students, but, it has quickly become an intrinsic part of the school's culture. It is a place to meet friends, to resolve conflicts and a place of prayer. It is a place where students can make positive changes to their environment and learn to become good global citizens.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank International School Peace Gardens for developing this fabulous concept for children. It has made a world of difference at St. Agnes.
On December 18th, 1998, a second letter was received from Larry Kearns providing an update on the progress of the School Peace Garden at St. Agnes.
Here it is, near the end of 1998, and I am finally getting a chance to write to you and share the many successes accomplished here at St. Agnes School via our Peace Garden Project.
We celebrated Community Parks Week again in a big way with a full colour march to the Peace Garden and a celebration which brought out Chatham's Town Crier, Mayor and other dignitaries. Students presented special citizens in our community with ‘Ambassador of Peace' Awards. Special students in our community also received a ‘Peace Maker' award. The event was covered in both our daily and weekly newspapers and I have attached the clippings. I also wrote an editorial for both of our newspaper re: School Peace Gardens and both published the editorial.
Just this week, we received a letter of congratulation and encouragement from our Prime Minister. He encourages us to take great pride in our commitment to peace within our school community and in the world. Through mutual understanding and a profound respect for the world we inhabit, we can achieve this greatest goal of humanity.
This year, we were also honoured with a visit from you and Eric Foster. Julia, you have indeed made a very positive impression on the children of St. Agnes. They know you as the lady who gave them the Peace Garden button and always smile when they hear your name and when I talk about the messages you have sent them, they are truly interested. Thank you for the time you have shared with us. And I thank the heavens for putting me in touch with you. What a great experience this has been.
You may be interested to know that the planning and implementation of work has shifted from the original teacher group which got the Peace Garden started, to the students. Our planning community consists of Mr. Young, Mrs. O'Brien and myself as supervisors and mentors for a group of grade six students who are preparing the budget, fund raising and promoting the garden.
A special event coming up on Jan. 22nd, (The Feast of St. Agnes) will be The Festival of Lights in the Peace Garden. We will be lighting up the garden with Christmas lights and spot lights. The Peace Garden will be open to the public. Donations given that night will go to support a group of individuals from our church for their trip to Honduras.
On Feb. 12th we will commemorate the 1st anniversary of the passing of Myles Neuts. Another evening service with candles lighting the path of the Peace Garden. We will also have the garden decorated with Christmas lights. After the service, we will go into the school's gym to play a parent/student volleyball game.
Another big work event will take place during Earth Week again. More flowers will be planted, the Path of Peace will be extended to reach the black top in the backyard to allow students access to the garden on rainy days.
That's the news from Chatham. We at St. Agnes School wish all members of IHTEC and the International School Peace Gardens program, a very Merry Christmas or Cultural Festive Season and look forward to another tremendous year in 1999.
St. Agnes School