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Peace Week at Casady School

large pinwheel peace sign

For many years, Shinnyo-en Foundation has been supporting Casady School in Oklahoma City and their activities organized around the United Nation’s International Day of Peace. In 2013, for the first time, the UN dedicated the day to “peace education.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked that we pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect and to invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity. Casady School does just that each year, and their efforts make lasting impressions year-round, long after the day or week is over. This article was contributed by Ms. Carmen Clay, Director of Service-Learning at Casady School.

The Casady service-learning goal is to empower children and youth to find their passion to help the community and embark in an entrepreneurial quest for peace and social change. During Peace Week, Casady School faculty and students brought to life the words of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy: “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were.”

Peace Week placed an intentional focus on kindness, compassion, and service. Children and youth transferred wishes for global and inner peace into simple pinwheels, reflective letters, peace pledges, and skits. Through the arts, and dressed in theShinnyo-en Foundation’s Six Billion Paths to Peace T-shirts, students creatively assessed how words and actions affect others and the environment. From September 11th through the 21st, themes like “Who will I make peace with?” and “How can we go beyond co-existence to build bridges of understanding?” stayed in our spirits. It propelled busy teens to raise their own awareness of the YWCA’s mission of ending racism and domestic violence and it led to a school-wide food drive benefiting the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s mission of fighting hunger and feeding hope. Letters of support for wounded warriors were also sent, and the cultural competency youth board for our city, Youth LEAD Oklahoma Casady (YLOKC), is holding its second service project which will be a debate/town hall discussion on Safe Rooms and Tornado Shelters for Oklahoma Public Schools.

Here are a few of the highlights from the week’s events and the themes associated with each day:

9/11 UNITY
After-school care children created pinwheels and posters that advocated good deeds and the Youth in Action in the Community (YAC)’s good deeds included making goodies for firefighters and writing sincere appreciation letters to faculty on campus.

When teens were asked why they prioritized and dedicated time to Peace Week, one high school freshman said, “I have been involved in clubs since 5th grade, making pinwheels for peace after lunch. Now, that I am a freshman in Youth LEAD OKC and an executive member of my school’s YAC group, I am actually facilitating the making of pinwheels for younger kids. I feel I am making a real difference.”

The freshman lunch table also hosted members of a retirement community and their guests stated that “the best time was sharing lunch with teens!”

9/12 INTERDEPENDENCE
peacemaker signMiddle division students expressed their thoughts on a “PEACEMAKER” sign made by art teacher, Melody Huber. Drama teacher, Tim Crofton, presented Pieces of Peace at chapel service. His students were reflective and commented that “I learned that we can work together to create something magnificent, beautiful and meaningful. Peace is possible no matter how bad the situation is and you can make peace by doing something simple such as volunteering or talking to someone you normally wouldn’t. Peace is not only about wars overseas but also about daily conflicts in our lives. It is not all about stopping conflict but also about promoting virtues that we can use everyday.”

The Primary, Lower and Middle Divisions at Casady also made pinwheels during class time and when students were asked why they were making pinwheels for peace, one student responded by saying, “so that people know we are trying to help to promote peace and love. For the world to get all right with each other and for kids to be grateful for our peace, here in school and to give peace.” The Lower Division students also created class peace pledges to agree to never tolerate bullying. These pledges were signed by the students, and teachers displayed them for everyone to see.

9/13 ENVIRONEMNT
The Forestry Department honored a Boys and Girls Club Green Team request and donated 65 tree saplings for faculty to plant. This was in partnership with the Environment Online (ENO) Programme project, 100 Million Trees by 2017.

9/14 – 9/16 ECONOMIC JUSTICE, HEALTH, CHILDREN & YOUTH
The Service-Learning Program promoted volunteering at the Food Bank, Boys and Girls Club, Peace Prayer Walks around our lake, and kind sportsmanship at weekend competitions.

9/17 – 9/19 WOMEN, HUMAN RIGHTS & FREEDOM
The Upper Division chorus performed Pie Jesu, led by chorus teacher, Jeanmarie Nielsen; A retirement community learned about Peace One Day while making pinwheels; After-school care children traced gigantic silhouettes and drew images of hearts, pizza, water faucets, houses, and tooth brushes because human rights meant that “basic needs are covered” to them. The children also chose a flag with their names in the stars deputizing themselves as secret agents of compassion as a representation of freedom.

planting pinwheel9/20 DISARMAMENT – International Day of Peace at Casady and Oklahoma City University 
Throughout the day, 500 Pinwheels for Peace were planted on a peace sign outside the chapel. Primary, Middle and Upper Division students reflected on peace in their chapel services and on the day’s activities. Middle Division students voiced that “It brought joy to know that by making pinwheels we were part of making a change in our world.”

Primary Division children defined peace as what made them feel happy, which included things like “snuggling dogs,” “listening to the ocean in Florida,” and “playing outside with my family after dinner.”

At the Oklahoma City University Multicultural festival, the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s Six Billion Paths to Peace t-shirts were distributed and pinwheels made by Lower Division Casady students were shared with performers and participants.

9/21 YOUTH LEAD Oklahoma Casady (YLOKC) Service Morning
At the Boys and Girls Club Kids Carnival, YLOKC teens raised awareness of Peace Day, collected participants’ peace thoughts and promoted the Recipeace “Serve peace at your table” movement, which is a social movement that brings people together over food and builds awareness for Peace Day on a global scale.

The week concluded on the 22nd with the Oklahoma Conference of Churches Interfaith Youth Tour. YLOKC facilitated the reflective component of the tour and the students visited three places of worship.

It is hard to believe that all of these projects started at a National Youth Leadership Council workshop by Shinnyo-en Foundation and has been sustained by the unobtrusive support of a simple, Six Billion Paths to Peace t-shirt.

green team

To see more pictures of the week’s events, check out Casady’s slideshow, and to find out more about their service activities, check out the Casady Community Service-Learning Blog.