is trying something new to improve conflict resolution skills in the kids at the Fairfax elementary.
Peacementors, a program designed to assist students in diffusing the conflicts of peers, has seen a success since it was piloted at Manor in the fall. The idea of the program is to allow children in accepted leadership roles (as “peacementors”) to patrol the playground and help contribute to a less chaotic lunchtime environment.
Any fourth- or fifth-grader, after recommendation by a teacher, can be a prospective peacementor. The recommended peacementors also volunteer for the job, and are then put through a training session for a few lunchtimes. These teach the peacementor to watch for three specific situations: blatant arguments, lonely children, and a general increase in the chaotic atmosphere of the playground.
In addition to dealing with any of these specific situations, the peacementors help make a generally safer atmosphere by simply being there. In the words of Peacementors coordinator and co-founder Kim D’arcy, “Just a presence of parents, or in this case older students, helps bring a level of conflict down.”
Initiated by KIND (Kindness and Inclusion Network Development), an organization of parents, the Peacementors program works hand in hand with a previously-existing program for lunchtime supervision: PALS, or Parents At Lunch.
PALS works to the same effect as Peacementors – providing a presence to mediate playground disputes. As the two programs essentially differ only in the age of the volunteers, D’arcy aims to combine the two into PeaceCoaches, a collaborative effort of the student peacementors and parent lunchtime volunteers.
PeaceCoaches would have a larger presence on the playground, primarily in the form of organizing playground games that discourage segregation by gender and athletic ability. As the more athletic male students tend to dominate playground games, PeaceCoaches hopes to encourage participation from less-athletic students who want to give it a try, but may be too shy to jump in.
In addition to including more students in playground games, the general increase in supervision will provide “more eyes and ears however kids need it, so they don’t feel isolated or alone in a difficult situation,” said D'arcy.
Given the initial success of the playground-exclusive Peacementors and PALS, the district will soon initiate a more in-depth program integrated with classroom teaching, instead of just playground behavior. Specifically, three different social and emotional learning curriculums are under review by a staff of teachers assembled by Toni Beal, Director of Student Services for the Ross Valley School District. Each program differs in the way it goes about teaching, but each one has the same essential goals as PeaceMentors – teaching students to mediate disputes with reason.
How do your kids deal with their problems?