We listen. We talk. We share our ideas.
We try to understand others. We compromise.
We come with open minds. We come with open hearts.
We can build peace.
These are the words of students who participated in Hands United for Peace. Using story, music and visual art, this collaborative project brought children and adults together to strengthen community relationships and demonstrate a common commitment to peace.
This innovative intergenerational teaching project was developed in a community-based partnership that included PeaceQuest, Chalmers United Church and Sydenham Public School, The goal was to model community collaboration and peace-building through music and art. Teacher Sarah McCourt and students in the grade 4/5 class at Sydenham Public School created/implemented the project with church staff David Melhorn-Boe and Margaret Moncrieff.
Teaching and learning in the project was based on four creative activities:
- Creating a peace banner to be hung on the church tower
- Reading a story about peace-making (Old Turtle and the Broken Truth)
- Creating a soundscape to deepen the expression of the story’s meaning
- Singing songs about peace
In an introductory lesson, students discussed the questions: “What is peace?” “How can we build peace?” Old Turtle and the Broken Truth (by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jon J Muth, Scholastic Press, NY, 2003) was read aloud to the class and revisited throughout the project.
The banner as designed and prepared by David Melhorn-Boe and a local artist, included an image of a tree with branches, roots and leaves consisting of hands, a globe, the title “Hands United for Peace” and the names of the three partnering groups. Students visited the church hall in groups to paint the banner, filling in the hands in rainbow colours.
David and Margaret visited the class five times (90 minutes each) to guide students in creating a soundscape to enhance the telling of the story, and in singing songs about peace. These elements were rehearsed in preparation for a public performance.
The public was invited to the banner-raising on a cold and windy Friday afternoon in April. Due to continued wind and rain, the banner was moved from the church tower to the sanctuary, limiting the opportunities for broader community engagement. The project culminated in the public performance of Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, accompanied by soundscapes and songs of peace by the children of Chalmers United Church and Sydenham Public School, as well as the Chalmers Choir and Flute Choir.