A brisk sunny day greeted students from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School as they ran outside with shouts of joy to celebrate United Nations (U.N.) International Day of Peace.
The Charter School celebrated the day, also known as International Ceasefire Day, on Friday, and spent the entire week leading up to it learning about the creation of the U.N., its 17 sustainability goals, and the U.N. theme for 2018: “The Right to Peace — the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.”
The idea to celebrate Peace Day was implemented by Peter Steedman, who is in his first year as the school’s director. Steedman got the idea from his former students at Sturgis Public Charter School in Hyannis.
“It’s really important that we reflect on how many gifts we have, and how much that we have at our disposal here. That we have a wonderful opportunity for education, we have teachers who care about us, we’ve got a building that is now renovated with AC. You have access to an amazing nurse, you have the ability to run around with [physical education director Tim Penicaud] and exercise. We should really think about how fortunate we are — and I think we do … we are so appreciative of all your efforts,” Steedman said to all the students.
Each grade level learned about different aspects of the U.N. The class of kindergarten teacher Lori DiGiacomo learned about different countries around the world, and how peace can be more than an action. Younger students also paired up with older students to learn about different ways to be nice to people. Middle grade social studies teacher Jonah Maidoff had his students research and learn about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and make posters of the different articles of the human rights treaty.
Every morning the entire school population —180 K-12 students — gathers in the school’s main hallway, nicknamed “Main Street,” for morning meeting. On Fridays, students, teachers, and staff will sing a song together. For Peace Day, the school sang and clapped along to “Peace Like a River,” led by music teacher Chelsea Pennebaker, who played ukulele.
Friday’s main event was participating in the One Day One Goal schoolwide soccer game with teams made up of students from every grade. Students were designated one of 15 teams: Brazil, U.S., France, England, Argentina, China, Mexico, South Korea, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Portugal, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. The teachers’ team was Senegal.
Students were encouraged to wear sports jerseys of their favorite teams. Some students donned major European team jerseys, while others wore their Martha’s Vineyard Youth Soccer shirts.
Each game ran roughly three minutes long, and was set to the tune of a Bob Marley playlist playing on a portable speaker. Everyone got involved as older students engaged the younger students, who swarmed the ball and kicked widly to try and score.
Steedman said he was excited to see the school learn about the U.N. and Peace Day concurrently with the school’s founding pillars: freedom, democracy, cooperation, responsibility, respect, and trust.
The Charter School wasn’t the only one celebrating Peace Day. Students at the Vineyard Montessori School celebrated by speaking about peace, reading poetry, and other creative works. Students on-Island joined thousands of other Montessori schools around the world by lighting candles at 9:30 am and singing “Light a Candle for Peace.” One of the students accompanied the chorus on piano.
This is the Montessori School’s second year celebrating Peace Day, and they are looking forward to continuing the tradition each year. “It was wonderful. It was a beautiful gathering of the whole school, pre-K through eighth grade, and parents and teachers and staff, that joined in the song. There were candles that we lit; they did it in sign language. It’s something we look forward to every year,” Head of School Deborah Jernegan said.