Looking for peace

Marija Konovalova Riga Classical gymnasium teacher

“No one is so foolish as to prefer war to peace, in which instead of sons burying their fathers, fathers bury their sons.”   ― Herodotus

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In 2014 the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the First World War. That terrible struggle left 20 million people dead.

In that exactly year 2014, school teachers from five European countries: Germany, Austria, Latvia, Sweden, France came up with an idea to realize an unusual school project. The project which would be devoted not near to war but peace.

And what do we know about peace? Is that only the absence of war? Why is peace so fragile? Why do people say over and over again they want peace while many of them are ready to make war? And what should be done not to allow transition from the state of absence of war to the opposite state of its presence?

Erasmus+ project “Peace is Possible” is one of the ways to answer these questions.

Erasmus+ gives opportunities to teachers and students from different countries of the EU to collaborate.

The idea of the project devoted to peace problems belongs to the history teacher from Germany, Dirk Becker ( Albert-Einstein-Shule). When Dirk sent me an invitation to take part in the project named “Peace is Possible”, I was happy to agree. I did not hesitate, I was sure it would be interesting and beneficial to my students. Together with the colleagues and students from Riga Classical Gymnasium we built up a team of like-minded people. In the spring 2016 we organised the 2nd meeting of all the project members in Riga.

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The report about that meeting comes here:

During Riga meeting we were expected to work in two directions: Peace Studies and Peace making. Peace Studies is theory while Peace making is putting this theory into practice. On the whole, it was going to be hard work.

DAY 1. RIGA WELCOME

The venue for the meeting was Riga Classical Gymnasium (www.rkg.lv).

The first day started with ice-breaker activities which allowed the participants to feel comfortable and get to know each other. It is always important to break ice when starting great work with people who hardly know each other

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Our senior students Maria Ermane, Anastasia Yavorska and Roland Dzenis conducted the ice-breaker games and got everyone acquainted with each other. Good job! The ice of shyness was melting….

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The working language of the project is English. It is difficult at first but with time it becomes easy to understand German, Austrian, French, Swedish, Latvian and Russian accents of English.

 

 

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While preparing for Riga meeting we set a goal to study the world-known experience of solving conflicts. So, at the preliminary stage our students had to investigate the examples of world crises. We were working cooperatively using the educational platform eTwinning. You can see the details of the platform here:  https://www.etwinning.net

In Riga all the participants of the project were divided into international groups and continued working on the goal.

DAY 2. CONFERENCE

On the second day the students presented their work.

They took it seriously…

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After the presentations there was time for discussion and sharing opinions. In the end there arose a real scientific conference on the topic “Experience of Humanity in Solving World Conflicts”

 

 

Day 3. WAR AND PEACE

 

The third day was dedicated to active modelling. The students had to model a spirit of conflict.  It was important to us that our “peacemakers” could feel what it meant to be at war. To reach this goal we set off to the Christmas Battles Museum. This is an open-air museum which is devoted to the battle actions on the territory of Latvia during World War I. There are special educational interactive programmes which perfectly explain to youngsters what a war is. (www.karamuzejs.lv/lv/zm.aspx)

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At the beginning there was a short battle march through a swamp. When everybody got tired and legs were tingling there began drilling conducted by a moody lance-corporal.  Running, military workouts, trenches…

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And if one did not perform well (but for the lance-corporal everything was not alright…), they would have to do push-ups image12

After an hour our “peacemakers” had a clear vision what military service is. Although everyone understood that it was just a role play, they had a firm reluctance to start it. That moody lance-corporal was obviously not genuine. But all the rest around: trenches, a swamp, workouts and particularly exhibits in the museum were true and real.

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After visiting the museum we had to come back to the state of peace. And what can be more peaceful than baking bread? That is why our next destination was Bread  Bakery “Lāči”. There we were given special work clothes and were shown the whole process of baking bread. We also had a unique opportunity to create bread ourselves. Baking bread reminds a sacral ceremony. In order to get tasty bread a baker should possess not only special professional skills but also particular feelings, state of mind and energy. The energy of goodness and peace… image14

That day was called “War and Peace”

DAY 4. UN IMITATION ROLE PLAY

The fourth day of  Riga meeting was devoted to peace making. The goal was to learn how to resolve political conflicts. In order to reach the goal we organized a special role play

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In the assembly hall of Riga Classical Gymnasium there was held a role play simulating United Nations Security Council. The task for UN Security Council was to stop the war in the fictional country Chaotica and not to allow the conflict to develop into the world war.

All the students were divided into small groups, which were chosen from draw. Each group represented one member state of UN Security Council. The aim of the Security Council was to pass resolutions concerning settling the matter in Chaotica

 

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All the framework, except the fictional Chaotica, quite corresponded to the acting model of the Security Council. The students fulfilled their roles responsibly. image17 image18 image19 image20

The participants of the project got to learn how the Security Council functions, how debating and voting for the resolution happen. It appeared that the process of peace-making was tremendously difficult, but to find the most acceptable decision was nearly impossible task. Passions were running high, member states were searching for allies, and the chairman was calling to order… In the end the resolution was passed and the results of the role play were rewarding.

DAY 5. MOVIE MAKING

 During  our first meeting in Austria we decided to shoot a film that could be a final product of the project ”Peace is Possible”. The film which would promote the idea of peace. In our team there is a true professional of movie making. His name is Per Djerf, he is a teacher from Sweden. In Austria Per conducted the workshops on movie making devoted to the theme of peace. That is why one of the days of Riga meeting was dedicated  to filmmaking. In order to accomplish the work we set off to Cinevilla

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Cinevilla is a movie town constructed specially for filmmaking. Although the sun was shining brightly, it was very cold outside. And there was nobody in the town apart from our loud team. Houses, cars, and old time steam train at the station, all were artificial and unreal. In such setting one involuntarily would start thinking that the world around them was a big illusion. Peacemakers drifted away and began to shoot a film. The film that would contribute into true and real peace thereafter.

That was the end of the meeting in Riga. After having seen our project partners off, the team of Riga Classical Gymnasium discussed the achievements. Personally I was mostly interested in the students’ feedback. What was the project for them? What did they gain in the project? What did they understand? Here come the main conclusions:

The image of war has been sturdily constructed in our heads. War has been the subject of lots of books, films, exhibitions and museums. War has always been the subject of discussion for almost everyone starting with politicians to housewives. And what is the mainstream topic of discussion in mass media nowadays? Exactly! The war! Beginning with The Trojan War, which is known as the first grand-scale war between East and West, the mankind has been constantly taking advantage of war as a tool for solving problems.

In other words, during the last five thousand years we have been living at war. Therefore, the conclusion is that we should reverse this way of thinking.

Indeed, the world is rather illusory. To make it real, we should work. We should work like bakers do, deliberately and with sincere feelings. We must do good! We must create! So, shoot films, compose songs, dance, paint, get together, learn languages and communicate! And then the world will turn into a real thing like warm, soft bread in our hands. Thus, the second conclusion is: do good bit by bit but do it every day.

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Well! We will have much to do during the next meeting, won’t we?

June 2016

Riga

Translation: Ilona Teleznikova