By Fiona Oliver-Larkin, Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre’s PeaceBuilders Programme Coordinator
As the coordinator of a team of people who usually work in-person in primary schools all across Edinburgh, when lockdown was announced I was full of questions; questions like when will the schools go back? What is it going to be like when they do? When will we as a team get back into schools? What can we do to help out now?
A bit of context: PeaceBuilders are a team of facilitators who run courses in primary schools in Scotland aimed at supporting class groups to build a culture of peace and give them some tools for conflict resolution.
Since 2015 we have worked with more than 50 class groups in primary Schools across Edinburgh – and in one school in Glasgow . Based on principles of nonviolence, we work through dynamic activities, like cooperative games, circus skills and drama coupled with circle time reflection, to support the Health and Wellbeing aspects of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.
We have seen the positive impact that the work we do can have, on self esteem, cooperation, teamwork and empathy. We have had really positive feedback from students, teachers and parents.
And now, since March, we have been in a position where we don’t know when we will be able to return to schools.
So I started calling up schools. I wanted to get a picture of the best way PeaceBuilders could help out once schools went back and if there was anything we could do now to help.
One thing I found that was really helpful was this resource from Peacemakers in Birmingham. It’s a brilliant resource from a dedicated and diverse team of specialists. I highly recommend it. Needless to say I sent it around to all the schools we have worked with.
I found that schools were full of the same questions as me. Speaking to one headteacher we have worked with closely, I suggested we could try running our regular course over zoom. But the problem was, she explained, that post-lockdown, their timetables would be changing all the time, and it might not be possible for classes to make a weekly commitment. She suggested we make a series of films, so that classes could access the sessions as and when it suited.
Luckily, one of the PeaceBuilders facilitators is also a fim-maker, and two of the team members are flatmates, so even with COVID restrictions, they will be able to create the films.
Teachers across Scotland will be able to use these films to help children talk about their experience of the pandemic and lockdown, as well as providing a full PeaceBuilders course that can be accessed at any time, and into the future. Once we are able to get back into schools, we’ll be able to offer a follow up programme of training for both teachers and kids in Restorative Practice, Nonviolent Communication and Peer Mediation.
For a detailed course description of our regular PeaceBuilders Cooperative Games Course please visit: https://peaceandjustice.org.uk/projects/peacebuilding-for-primary-schools/.
Here is the crowdfunder we set up to help make this happen. Anyone who wants to donate can visit: https://chuffed.org/project/peacebuilders-video
Or for more information contact Fiona: peacebuilders[at]peaceandjustice.org.uk