Peace and Kindness

This blog post was written by Bridget Yoko, Wellness Guide at The Village School.

Over the summer, I had the privilege of attending WISSIT (the Washington International School Summer Institute for Teachers).  To say that the learning experience was inspirational would be an understatement. I was surrounded by some of the best educators from around the globe. Each day, I soaked in the messages of hope, peace, kindness, empathy, inclusion, and community. When the week concluded, I continued to reflect on the following questions: 

  • What stories are we telling?
  • Whose stories are missing?
  • How can we create a community of peace?
  • How can we create a community of kindness?

I knew that I had to find a way to better utilize our Health and Wellness time at The Village School to think about the stories we tell, whose stories were missing in our community, and how we can take those stories and create a more peaceful and kind community together.

Following my participation in the Art Happenings titled “Reflection of Peace” by Ellen Lafferty of Sacred Heart School and “Telling the Untold Stories of Black Joy through 100 Languages” by Marla McLean of School Within School (DCPS), I set out to find ways to inspire our learners to reflect on how peace and kindness look and feel, and how they can spread peace and kindness to each other. 

In our Adventure middle school studio, we listened to the stories of Unsung Heroes like the story of Alie and the way one person’s friendship impacted her life. We examined the photographs taken by Thomas Holton, another WISSIT-inspired activity, and asked ourselves about the emotions the family was expressing and whose story was being told. The learners were challenged to share their own stories of bravery, joy, hardship, challenge, accomplishment, etc. We thought about how each of our stories contributes to the knowledge and impact we all have on each other. Each of us brings something special, something of value and importance to our community. 

Similar activities were shared with our Discovery elementary school learners. As we explored peace and kindness, we had one big question left to answer: How do we want to be remembered? The learners thought about the questions: In 20 years from now, when a studiomate of mine opens the yearbook and looks at a picture of me, what do I hope they say? What do I hope my impact has been? 

At the end of the third session, after 10 weeks of diving deep into the stories of others and the impact that being kind and peaceful can have, our learners each created their own stamp to represent what peace or kindness means to them, symbolizing the mark they hope to leave on our community. They started with a brainstorm about experiences, images, and colors that represented peace or kindness. Then, they created a symbol. At that point, it was time for the hard and meticulous work of transferring their symbol to a linoleum block. Each learner hand-carved their design, painted it, and stamped it onto canvas. As our Guide team watched the learners excitedly working, they became inspired as well. In one of our afternoon professional development sessions, we each created our own symbols with the help of some of our older middle school learners. The culminating piece was a short video message for parents and fellow studiomates so that they could learn more about what each symbol represents. 

There were symbols connected to nature, animals, friendship, the ripple effect we have on others, reading, family, and so much more. 

There were symbols connected to nature, animals, friendship, the ripple effect we have on others, reading, family, and so much more. 

One of our Adventure middle school learners, Vivien, created a heart with olive branches, symbolizing peace, and shared that “a peaceful world is one where everyone is valued.” Other quotes from our learners that we found inspiring were:

“My symbol is a ripple, like a ripple of kindness.  Kind of like a stone being thrown into the water. I think of it like my bunny’s feet. How I am going to spread peace and kindness is doing small things to be peaceful and kind and I think that will help because little things everywhere make one big thing. “ – Ivy, Discovery Learner, age 10

“Kindness means holding my heart.” – Spark Learner, Age 5

“Kindness is a  note to somebody, like a thank you for being nice to me.” – Spark Learner, Age 6

“Peace and kindness means that people love us and help us.” – Spark Learner, Age 4

“A truly peaceful world would look like no wars and everyone getting along with peace and harmony.” – Adventure Learner, Age 12

Our learners have shared their stories of hope, joy, challenge, achievement, and inspiration. Their voices are valuable and have brought more peace and kindness to our community. 

The Village School is a learner-centered “micro” school located in Arlington, Virginia, that serves 80 learners from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in three mixed-age groups. The School’s design has been inspired by the best practices of Montessori, Reggio Emilia, project-based learning, and of course, Project Zero pedagogical approaches. In line with Ron Ritchhart’s research on the cultural force of language in school settings, Village School classrooms are called studios, students are referred to as learners, and teachers are guides. 

Bridget, The Village School’s Wellness Guide, is responsible for working with all learners across all studios to develop healthy mindsets and discover personal wellness approaches. Bridget attended WISSIT in 2023; the immersive week-long experience was deeply inspiring to her. She made many connections between the throughlines of WISSIT and her role in her school community. This piece captures the heart of #BeyondWISSIT as Bridget’s inspiration carried through in her Wellness lessons this past fall at The Village School.