If we could turn back the hands of time to September 10, 2001, and manage to have Barrack Obama and Osama Bin Laden sit down at a PEACE Table together, what might they have said to one another? Well, if you had joined Edutopia guests yesterday in my classroom, you would have caught a glimpse of this event through the eyes of 10 and 11-year-olds. You would also have seen Ruby Bridges talk and listen to a white classmate, and Rosa Parks holding a discussion with the driver of her bus. Also on the guest list at the table were Martin Luther King, Jr. discussing peaceful v. violent protests with Malcolm X, and a rabbi hoping to talk to Adolf Hitler. In a word, it was remarkable. We set the stage for our lesson with a Second Step, SEL lesson on passive, aggressive, and assertive body language, actions, and words. The kids were sculptors and sculptures modeling these types of communication with just their bodies. We then talked about our own 5th grade PEACE Table and how to communicate assertively, without aggression or passivity. We role played typical 5th grade conflicts being resolved at the table, and then brainstormed people in history we would like to see talk “at the table”. Teams of 3 or 4 came up with their people from history and then rolled back the hands of time to have them follow our classroom expectations for PEACE. Two or three role-played people from different points of view, and one person was a mediator. Our expectations are: Be assertive. Listen with attention. Have empathy. Be respectful. The conversation between Barrack Obama and Osama Bin Laden was uncomfortable, but civil and respectful. They agreed to disagree, but they agreed to talk again. The dialogue between Rosa Parks and her bus driver was polite and honest. Rosa listened as the bus driver who said he was just enforcing the law, and he listened as she told how unfair it was for her to give up her seat to a white man. It was way cool! As we work backwards through American history this year, the kids will have the language and social-emotional skill foundation to see history through lenses they have not had before. As fifth graders, they see the world very differently than they have in the past, and very differently than they will in the future. They know about historic events, but this year they will be reliving and have empathy towards the people who brought America to where it is today. I believe that this is crucial to them leading our country in the future. Maybe one of them will have a PEACE Table in the Oval Office, or a PEACE Corner in their own classroom. See you at the table. Peace. http://blogs.utexas.edu/utes_socialstudies/
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