Projects for Peace: Using Art to Teach Students the Value of Peace

Jeremy Forgione teaches social studies and language arts at West Woods Upper Elementary in Farmington, Connecticut. He has been teaching for 15 years and emphasizes the importance of perseverance and peace in his 6th grade class.

Educator of the Week, Jeremy Forgione. Photograph by Grynn & Barrett Studios.
Jeremy Forgione is our Educator of the Week. Photograph by Grynn & Barrett Studios

Activity: War and Peace
Grade: 6
Time Commtment: 2 Class Periods

“War and Peace” is an artistic and reflective project that demonstrates the value and fragility of peace. Each student spends about an hour drawing his/her vision of peace on a large sheet of paper, which is later torn up by a classmate to symbolize war.

The torn pieces are returned to the owner, who searches for a “glimmer of hope,” a part of their illustration preserved after the damage. The idea came from a former student, who found an untouched drawing of a bird amongst the other shreds of paper.

After discovering a “glimmer of hope,” students can rebuild their illustrations at home and bring them back the next day to be laminated. Despite the wrinkles, students say the laminated drawings are meaningful because of the effort that went into recreating “peace.” Former students talk about this activity and many have kept their laminated drawings!

The second class period is dedicated to student discussion and reflection. Discussions are primarily student-driven because they quickly internalize the lesson’s message. September 11th is often mentioned when students connect the lesson to real-life events—despite violence and chaos, the nation found a “glimmer of hope” and started to rebuild.

A reassembled and laminated vision of peace is built on a “glimmer of hope.” Photograph by Jeremy Forgione

What advice do you have for teachers who want to get more involved with teaching students about the world?

Learn from other educators! I got the idea for War and Peace from a great professor, Todd Seelhorst, whose version was a quick five-minute lesson. Thanks to him, I had a proven mini-lesson to build on.

Students from Jeremy’s class pose with their visions of peace. Photograph by Jeremy Forgione

What is one simple activity that any educator could do with their students to get them thinking about the world?

Have students draw a world map with as much detail as possible, and then repeat the same activity at the end of the year. The teacher gets feedback, it’s very helpful to see which world regions are underrepresented, and the students keep a personalized illustration of their growth. They’ll be pleasantly surprised when they see how much they have learned about the world.

Favorite Quote:

“The Taj Mahal was beautiful, though not quite as beautiful as the ice-covered trees in Hartford after a winter storm.” —Mark Twain

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The Educator of the Week series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

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