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Students learn to negotiate global conflicts. Photo Kristen Druker
For years, as Peace Studies has grown into an established scholarly discipline, Del Mar’s Kristen Druker has been thinking about how to bring the teaching of peace into her ninth grade classroom. On September 11, 2001, Kristen was with her students at The Bishop’s School while television covered the terrorist attacks on the United States. The students who were seeking more information on the Internet stimulated the classroom discussion with continual updates. This response was the key inspiration for Kristen to teach peace in “real time.”
Encouraged by an anonymous gift, Kristen began in 2002 to design the course in partnership with Sarah Lucy, The Bishop’s School Librarian. She then started teaching Peaceconferencing and building a global network of people interested in her project. To support the creative process, The Bishop’s School granted her a sabbatical for the 2008-2009 school year, so that she could work on the course full-time. Currently 88 Bishop’s students are enrolled in Peaceconferencing classes. Separate teams of students are studying Iran, Somalia, North Korea, Nigeria, Palestine/Israel, India/Pakistan, Afghanistan and Haiti.
Peaceconferencing is an innovative learning experience, designed to inform and empower the learner to view global events as challenges with prospects for positive change through diplomacy. Teachers and librarians work with students in mediation/negotiation simulations based on real-world conflicts in real time. Students study and inform themselves enough to “get in the shoes” of those in conflict, thus enabling them to mediate more effectively by accurately reflecting and respecting the interests of all sides at the mediation table. The simulation “game” energizes the students to learn enough to be effective advocates for the point of view they are representing. The key to this process is the integration of classroom learning with the guided use of the Internet for knowledge acquisition and community connectivity. Students utilize their medium, the Internet, in a constructive and powerful way to understand the complexities underlying world conflict, building global citizenry in the process.
Kristen Druker with her roof roses. Photo Dave Druker.
In 2009 Kristen was invited to be among 20 participants, worldwide, to attend the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The attendees included professional negotiators and government officials. She was the only classroom teacher in attendance.
That event led to further discussions and a partnership between Kristen and USIP, an independent, non-partisan national institution established and funded by Congress to help build the capacity for peacemaking throughout the world.
Ron Cole of USIP is now engaged in building a simulation platform for Peaceconferencing with full support and funding from his organization. USIP is experienced in building such platforms, but this is their first venture into the field of education. Cole says of the project, “In some vitally important arenas, simulations provide unique and intense learning experiences and will someday be universally the norm in education. We have been blessed to meet the people of The Bishop’s School who have created the incredible teaching process that they call ‘Peaceconferencing.’ We are using our technology to help them bring it to scale and make it potentially available to every classroom in the world.”
Kristen’s dream is to support the global spread of Peaceconferencing through open access to an independent website and a teacher training program sponsored by independent donors and partnering schools.
For more information go to www.peaceconferencing.org