Some people may think that a peacebuilding curriculum can only be integrated in Social Studies and that for any other subject is not realistic. This year, I took on the challenge of integrating a peacebuilding curriculum in my Spanish classes.  I teach at Eastside High School, located in Gainesville, Fl. Our school is unique, as we have three programs: Culinary Arts, International Baccalaureate and the regular program.

Eastside High School Peace Day Challenge
Eastside High School students participating in the Peace Day Challenge for the International Day of Peace

After receiving my initial training as a USIP Peace Teacher, I decided to incorporate the Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators – High School Edition as a way for the students to practice the target language because the toolkit is available in Spanish. The first week of school I introduced the idea to my students and their parents, and everyone was very excited. 

Our first task of the year as Peace Teachers was to organize an event on September 21st for International Day of Peace. My vision for this event was to have students of all three programs participate together. I recruited two of my wonderful colleagues, Mrs. Zara-Smith (IB History of the America, AP Government and Economics) and Mr. Bosworth (AP Human Geography and US History), to help me organize the event. My goal was to bring three classes together in the Media Center each class period to listen to speakers and to work on hands-on activities. We decided to have a series of pre-activities with the students in our classes and also some simple ideas for the rest of the faculty at EHS to celebrate Peace Day in their classrooms. 

The main theme of our International Peace Day event was “Being a Peacebuilder Within Your Community”. I reached out to the University of Florida International Center for possible guest speakers. I also contacted the mayor’s office to invite him to be one of our speakers. He was not available but one of our city commissioners (Mr. David Arreola) was available to speak. 

For our pre-event activities, we included short videos about individuals who are peacebuilders in our morning news. The EHS Photography club created a mural with pictures that answered the question: What does peace mean to you? This photo exhibit was placed at the entrance of the Media Center.

Everything was coming together to have a wonderful event for International Day of Peace, until Hurricane Irma hit Florida, and we missed a week of classes. Even with the week off from school, our plans continued. Two days before the event, I had a lesson with my students asking them to name peacebuilders in my lesson Constructores de Paz. 

The International Day of Peace arrived, and our event went off without a hitch. Our speakers represented the many ways to be a peacebuilder in our school and community: Mr. Edward Suarez (a law student at Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia, who spoke about Colombia’s Peace Process), Mr. David Arreola (a local peacebuilder in Gainesville, Fl), Breton Homewook (Peace Corps), and Jeanette Misuraca (University of Florida student and winner of the Peace Project competition at UF).

We also ran three hands-on activities for the students: painting peace rocks, writing postcards for Child Refugees and making origami peace cranes for our sister classroom in Bogotá, Colombia and two other classrooms from Kenya and Israel. 

As a follow-up to the event, I created a Padlet with the title ¿Qué podemos hacer en EHS para ser constructores de Paz? (What do we need to do at EHS to be peacebuilders?) to start the dialogue in my classroom. The students had so many ideas on how to bring peace to our school: one of the most creative ideas was to paint a mural with the help of students from all the school programs. 

As part of my second unit for my Spanish III IB/AP Spanish class, we studied human rights and conflict. For this unit, I used part of Lesson 1.1 from the Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators. We had a very productive discussion in Spanish on the definition of conflict. Our discussion occurred few days before a very controversial speaker was supposed to speak at the University of Florida. One student mentioned his visit as a point of conflict in our city. The day the speaker was schedule to present at UF, I had colored pieces of paper taped to each of the desks in my classroom. I asked the students to write “mensajes positivos” (“positive messages”) for the other students that were going to sit in that desk later in the day. They could write the message in Spanish or English; or even draw a picture if that what they preferred. 

The integration of peacebuilding in my classes may not be as easy as in a Social Studies class, but so far all the activities had excellent comments from the students.  I believe that you can start the conversation about peacebuilding in any class. Students will always appreciate the opportunity to express their ideas and learn about things that are relevant to their everyday life.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Learn more about the USIP Peace Teacher Program.