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Telling Our Story

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Our organization, World Citizen, begins with the story of a young naval officer, named Lynn Elling, who served in the South Pacific during WWII. He personally saw the carnage of the battle of Tarawa and knew that there must be a better way. From then on he was driven by the mission of creating a world without war. He tried many ways to make a difference. His beginning efforts were focused on adults and he soon came to believe that if he was to have a lasting impact, his work would need to include children.  (More about Lynn and his work can be found at http://www.amillioncopies.info)  

Lynn began by founding World Citizen in 1972 and sharing an idea that he had learned from a social worker in New Jersey. This idea was to dedicate schools as Peace Sites. Peace site schools made a commitment to work on peace within ourselves, with others at home and throughout the world and with the natural world. There would be a commitment to learn about nonviolent conflict resolution as well as learning about and showing respect to all the world’s cultures.

In 1988, the first Minnesota Peace Site school, Longfellow Elementary in Minneapolis, was dedicated and since then over 700 more schools, churches, businesses and other organizations and homes have been dedicated with more being added all the time. The Peace Site dedications were amazing celebrations with communities coming together in song, with writing, with speakers and shared artwork. Each school was asked to place posters of the planet earth in each classroom.  Plaques were hung on the school walls and peace poles were planted to remind everyone of their commitment. Children were writing peace promises, poems and learning how to resolve conflicts. Lynn’s vision of a world without war was becoming more visible.

In 1996, World Citizen began its annual partnership with the collegiate Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College, Minneapolis.  (The Nobel Peace Prize Forum is a collaboration between Norwegian Nobel Institute and five midwest Norwegian Lutheran Colleges.) 
Every year since 1990, the Forum invites the previous year’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to come and speak. The Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg is an annual event. 
During Nobel Peace Prize Forum weekend, there are many other sessions for college students as well as the community to come and learn about the current issues in our world concerning peace and justice. World Citizen linked with this event and created an annual Nobel Peace Prize Festival so students from Peace Site schools could study Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, share their learning with other schools and, many times actually meet the laureates themselves. This festival has been a highlight for many students.

Still there was a need to integrate peace education on more than just the Nobel Peace Prize Festival day and the International Peace Site dedication day. There was a need to invigorate and empower the schools to live this way every day.  Peace isn’t just a one time special occasion but a desirable way of life for all the adults and students at each school.

World Citizen began to look at the identity and formation of individual teachers in each school setting. If teachers could view their teaching through the lens of peace education, they could more easily integrate nonviolent conflict resolution, human rights and ecological awareness and global vision into their teaching. Teachers are very busy and have many competing agendas. They need time to process and to share their great ideas with other teachers in order to create the lifelong changes that reflect Lynn Elling’s vision.

Thus the idea of creating communities of Peace Educators came about. World Citizen offers a unique way of training that emphasizes the process of becoming a peace educator, not just the content. Teachers gather in groups for a full day’s learning. Each teacher partners with at least one other teacher from their school so that they are never alone in this important work. They establish relationships with other teachers, share ideas and problem solve together. They have opportunities for new learning on many topics such as active citizenship, service learning, human rights, nonviolent conflict resolution and many more. They pick the topics that they want to learn more about so they are invested in the day. They become both teachers and learners often sharing what works in their classrooms and working together to identify and overcome obstacles. World Citizen provides the funding for substitute teachers so that the schools do not have to make decisions based on sometimes scarce resources.

Starting with one community of teachers, we have increased the number of communities as funding allows. Every time donations increase, we easily find teachers and schools that are seeking this training. The only factor capping the numbers of teachers that we are serving is the financial resource we have available to us.

We are preparing the next steps and have developed a broad vision to guide us. Teachers will be able to earn a certificate to add to their credentials that would identify them as having an expertise in Peace Education. We will replicate this model of teacher education throughout the nation and world increasing our network of relationships, ideas and resources. We are in conversation with two universities that are interested in creating a Center for Peace Education so that we could offer graduate level classes, a certificate program or graduate degrees to institutionalize this important work.  We are looking at other methods to network with interested teachers in the nation and indeed the world.

We are ready with the next steps. Our hope is that you would be our partner in turning this dream into a reality.